Europa League Conference – After PAOK – Marseille – Mandanda, back in favor: “When he’s like that, he’s fantastic

The scene was captured by the cameras of Canal+, while Samir Nasri came to meet Jorge Sampaoli during training in Marseille. When greeting his former teammate, Steve Mandanda summed up his situation with a smile: “He doesn’t want me to play“, he confided, pointing to his coach. Response from the Argentinian: “It’s me who teaches him to play football“.

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At that time, Steve Mandanda was still a certain number two, “El Pelado” having installed Pau Lopez in Ligue 1. What now? The legendary Marseille goalkeeper pulled off a memorable performance this Thursday evening when OM won over PAOK Salonika (1-0) in the Europa League Conference. Three days before the clash against Paris Saint-Germain…

Mandanda let the storm pass

Established for the third time in a row – a first this season – after Sampaoli wanted to maintain the dynamics of the 37-year-old goalkeeper for this quarter-final return, Mandanda became himself again. When the Greeks pushed, on the impetus given by a stadium in fusion, “Il Fenomeno” did what he knew how to do long before the arrival of Sampaoli at OM. Quickly on the ground to deflect an attempt by Akpom (10th), attentive to catch up with a headline the big blunder of his defense on the next corner, the captain prevented the Marseille boat from pitching and let the storm pass.

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What followed was no less impressive, as the Olympian goalkeeper made five saves in all, a total he hadn’t reached without conceding a goal in three and a half years. “Steve is used to this kind of matches“, observed Mattéo Guendouzi on W9. The goalkeeper played his 99th match in European competition. “With him, we were very calm, added the midfielder. When I saw his first saves, I knew none of their attempts would score. When he’s like that, he’s fantastic. He’s the man of the match.”

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Brilliant in his area, Steve Mandanda also and above all achieved his best performance in the kicking game. Very accurate in his choices at short distance, he also knew how to find his attacking partners when he lacked solutions in front of him. With the exception of a mid-distance transmission blocked (30th) which could have been dangerous, the tricolor international has shown that he can bring just as much as his direct competitor. And, perhaps, sowed doubt in the mind of Sampaoli.

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Because from now on, establishing Pau Lopez again in a match as important as the one that awaits the Marseillais on Sunday, at the Parc, would be a huge risk-taking. Especially since the last outings of the Spaniard were less convincing. At 37, Mandanda demonstrates that it is never too late to evolve. And (re)learn football.

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