Loïs Openda, Lens
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One to watch: Loïs Openda, Lens' PSG hunter

One to watch: Loïs Openda, Lens' PSG hunter

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Publish on 01/06 at 11:33 - S. TELFORD

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Loïs Openda scored one and assisted another as RC Lens handed Paris Saint-Germain their first defeat of the season on Sunday, but what else is there to know about the Belgian goal-fiend?

Openda scored Lens' second after Przemyslaw Frankowski and Hugo Ekitiké had exchanged goals, sitting Marquinhos down and finishing low beyond Gigio Donnarumma, before a back-heeled assist for Alexis Claude Maurice to round out the scoring in a famous 3-1 win.

 

Les Sang et Or are now just four points off PSG's title-setting pace, and Openda is their eight-goal top scorer, with that fine assist thrown in for good measure. Ligue1.com takes a look…

 

Back story:

 

Openda was born in French-speaking Liège to a Moroccan mother and Congolese father two days after Valentine's Day 2000, but his love affair with football didn't get off to the best start.

 

He spent the first year of his life in hospital due to bronchiolitis, and after undergoing surgery to solve his respiratory problems, Openda's mother was told that he would never be able to run, let alone play football.

 

He soon made a mockery of that appraisal, though, and was picked up by Standard Liège at the age of 13 before moving onto Club Brugge two years later. Initially homesick in Dutch-speaking Belgium, Openda persuaded his family to follow him to Brugge, which resuscitated his career.

 

Openda then had a successful two-year loan with Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands, where he scored 37 goals and laid on 11 assists in 88 games, before joining Lens for what now looks like a snip at €9.8 million in July.

 

Loïs Openda, Lens

 

Style of play:

 

Openda has a close relationship with French footballing legend and Belgium assistant manager Thierry Henry, with whom he shares electric pace and a preference for playing up front despite some managers' attempts to play them on the wing.

 

Openda loves nothing better than attacking the space in behind a high defensive line, and was compared to Jamie Vardy by former Belgium head coach Robert Martinez, who handed him his debut in September with Morocco and DR Congo both attempting to persuade him to change his international allegiance.

 

Current campaign:

 

Openda was still something of an unknown quantity when he lined up at the point of Les Sang et Or's attack against Stade Brestois 29 on the opening day, and although he went under the radar that day - Florian Sotoca stealing the show with a hat-trick in a 3-2 win - he was soon getting his own name on the scoresheet.

 

Openda scored his first Ligue 1 Uber Eats goal against AS Monaco two weeks later, the opener in a 4-1 win which was particularly sweet against a team managed by a Philippe Clement who had previously overlooked him at Brugge.

 

He bagged his first hat-trick against Toulouse FC in October, and although his goalscoring went into hibernation for a lot of this winter, he was back on target with a goal and an assist as Lens delivered Paris Saint-Germain their first defeat of the season last Sunday.

 

Watch: Highlights of Lens' 3-1 win over PSG



What they said:

 

"I've been so well received here. The team's really welcomed me in. It's been easy for me because it's like a family here. I felt at home straight away. That's why this is a special place. There's an incredible warmth here."

 

- Openda, speaking to the Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS, on arriving at Lens last summer.

 

"He was sick all the time. [After invasive surgery] there was his valve, pushing back. It was his miracle. When he came out of the hospital, I was told that he wouldn't be able to run in his life. Today he's a rocket!"

 

- Openda's mother Mariame on her son's early medical scare.

 

"I wanted him to have lots of energy for a match like the one against Paris, in which we knew there would be transitions. I discussed the gameplan with Loïs, and recent rotation. Sometimes you have to ask questions of your players."

 

- Lens coach Franck Haise on Openda's PSG star-turn.

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