Strootman strikes late as Marseille keep the pace

12 Jan 2020

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RENNES: Olympique de Marseille’s Kevin Strootman (second L) scores past Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy during their Ligue 1 match at the Roazhon Park.—AFP
RENNES: Olympique de Marseille’s Kevin Strootman (second L) scores past Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy during their Ligue 1 match at the Roazhon Park.—AFP

RENNES: Substitute Kevin Strootman steered in a late winner as Olympique de Marseille strengthened their grip on second place in Ligue 1 by beating third-placed Rennes 1-0 on Friday.

After Dimitri Payet’s 84th-minute free kick was saved by goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, Strootman showed good balance to clip the loose ball high into the net from a tight angle just two minutes after coming off the bench.

Andre Villas-Boas’ are nine league games unbeaten and four points behind league leaders Paris St Germain, who have played two games less, and eight clear of Rennes, who play their game in hand at 19th-place Nimes on Wednesday.

“A draw might have been fairer for a match like that,” Villas-Boas said.“It’s a very good result for us as we move away from our opponents in the table.”

In a tight and physical contest, Marseille centre half Alvaro Gonzalez hit the post from 15 meters out following a bizarre corner in the 42nd minute.

When Mendy went to clear a routine back pass, the ball hit one of several lumps of crumpled paper thrown from the Rennes fans behind his goal and bobbled up and over his foot for a corner.

Benjamin Bourigeaud’s curling shot from just outside the area drew a sharp save from Marseille goalie Steve Mandanda just before halftime. Tempers frayed as players confronted each other in the tunnel at the interval, and the start of the second half was delayed by several minutes.

Rennes forward Raphinha went close with a half-volley from just inside the area which fizzed past the left post in the 67th. Moments later, Mendy kept out a low drive from Payet from a similar distance.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2020