Hot prospect Remi Oudin key to Reims’ resurgence

              FILE - In this Sept. 26, 20-19 file picture PSG's Neymar, left, fights for the ball with Reims' Remi Oudin during the French League One soccer match between Paris-Saint-Germain and Reims at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France. Fifth-placed Reims's excellent run in the French league is largely due to the performances of 22-year-old Remi Oudin, a versatile attacking midfielder with an impressive left foot and a great touch. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

PARIS (AP) — Unbeaten in 13 matches, Reims is defying expectations and challenging for a place in European competition.

Remi Oudin is leading the way.

The 22-year-old attacking midfielder, who has an impressive left foot and an excellent first touch, is a homegrown product who joined the Champagne club when he was 15.

He scored the winner against Nantes over the weekend for his ninth goal of the season, two more than he scored in last season’s promotion campaign from the second division.

Nicknamed “Robin” by his teammates for his resemblance with former Dutch international Robin van Persie, Oudin has improved his finishing within a team that creates few chances and has based its success on solid defending.

He was criticized the previous weekend after he missed a couple of chances in a 1-1 draw against Dijon. Against Nantes, Reims struggled offensively for much of the match but Oudin converted his team’s first chance for his fifth goal in six matches with a clinical finish.

After collecting a pass from Bjorn Engels, he dribbled past left back Charles Tarore, cut inside the box and scored with his right foot into the top corner.

“I think I used to rush too much, I did not have the coolness and calm that I managed to get in the second half of the season,” Oudin told Foot Mercato website. “I still need to improve in certain areas, especially in the duels, and physically. But it will come with time and experience.”

Reims has lost only five league matches, with runaway leader Paris Saint-Germain the only team with fewer losses this season. According to French league statistics, the last time Reims had recorded so few losses was during the 1959-60 season, when the team was among the best in Europe and won the fifth of its six league titles.

“Our goal this season was to reach 45 points, we managed to do this and it’s a big satisfaction,” Reims coach David Guion said. “Now this is the last chapter, with our nine final games. We are really ambitious, we want to keep winning, let’s see where it will take us.”