Posted in Matches in Brief

Matchday 11…So Far

Five matches have taken place this weekend so far and to be honest, only one club has really shined in my opinion (no offense to the other 9) and that club is Eupen. Every match seems more vital when I see every result come in because no club is safe, and no club is guaranteed a top 6 place in a league where I wrote predictions on what I believe and should have an idea of, and I rarely I get them right in any way!

Starting with Friday, a match where I thought the home team would win because Standard haven’t been magnificent away from home, and Mouscron will prove me wrong because every week I feel the bubble will burst. Unfortunately for me and Mouscron I was wrong. Liege took a first half lead through and own goal by Sebastien Locigno. In a game of scrappy goals, Taiwo Awoniyi poked home on the line from a scrap on the goal line. But Les Rouches didn’t give up and Orlando Sa nodded home with 20 minutes to go. Edmilson Junior added a poor penalty to round off the win and give Standard their 3rd league win in 4 matches.

Last night saw Charleroi continue their poor run at the Daknamstadion. One win in six and like Mouscron, Les Zèbres have hit a sticky patch which still sees them in second place, but edging further away from Club Brugge (unless Brugge lose). Steve De Ridder put Lokeren into the lead and I did think it’d be another disastrous week for Charleroi. A magnificent goal by Christian Benavente couldn’t salvage anything but a point, and I’m not sure what’s going on at Charleroi regarding form. Lokeren can spring a surprise but Charleroi are just petering out right now and need another scrappy 1-0 win somewhere.

Eupen stole the show though with a superb 4-1 win against Mechelen at home. Eric Ocansey set the ball rolling with 2 goals in 8 first half minutes. Then Nicolas Verdier bagged what I think was his first of the season? And against his old club it was inevitable. A three goal lead, until Bouriema Bande pulled a goal back for Mechelen before the break. Yannick Ferrera brought on Mats Rits and Stefan Drazic to try and salvage anything because Genk managed a draw from this position very recently. Instead, Luis Garcia rounded off the scoring and it was a penalty!!! Condemning Mechelen to another defeat. Rits and Coosemans spoke with the fans after and I do feel Ferrera’s days are numbered unfortunately, although I did believe this about a month ago. Eupen however blew them away and were deadly in front of goal.

Sint Truiden hosted Oostende in a match I thought would be a draw. Not less said the better, but the important action happened in the 89th minute when Jonathan Legear hit am important winner for De Kanaries in the 89th minute. Again Oostende lose vital points in the dying minutes 2 weeks in a row. They’d still be bottom but only by a point. Their goal difference doesn’t help really so they’d still be bottom of if they win and Mechelen lose next time out, unless there’s a glut of goals in each. STVV bounce back to get their first league win since the Limburges derby just over a month ago! So vital for Jonas De Roeck.

Lastly, we come to the match where I thankfully saw the 2nd 45 minutes. Kortrijk hosted Gent in a match where it was a tough watch for the first 15 minutes. By Moses Simon struck a decent effort just outside the reach of Kaminski. I did feel that Kortrijk had given up even then, but a superb volley by Herve Kage lot up the last quarter of an hour where it could’ve finished 4-4! Brilliant ending to the match where maybe Gent shaded it, but a decent second half. Gent are still on the climb since Vanderhaeghe’s arrival and Anastasiou can take a lot of positives from the match too to be honest.

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Marcus Ingvartsen 

It’s not how it looks honest! Okay, it does. I’ve jumped on the band wagon. Flavour of the month in the Limburges region where a young Danish striker has helped hugely in the past couple of matches for De Smurfen. Marcus Ingvartsen has proved an inspired signing right this second and may continue his form this weekend.

At 21 he moved from Nordsjaelland in his native country and in all honesty, if it wasn’t for the last couple of key performances, he wouldn’t be spoken about right now. I won’t lie. But he deserves recognition in a struggling side who are now under 24/7 surveillance by the looks of things as the Luminous Arena turns into the Big Brother house! 

However, Marcus has only completed three 90 minute matches in the league this season, but then again there is a fight for those attacking places. Siebe Schrijvers, Mbwanna Samatta, and he may well have gotten his chance through luck with Leandro Trossard and Nikos Karelis out injured. But in all fairness he has been taking his chance with both hands.

He did come with a very good scoring record too, averaging nearly a goal every 2 matches. At 21 he looks to have a bright future in a tougher and bigger league. And with this weekend, another massive test with Genk travelling to Brussels. Anderlecht will be smarting after their recent drubbing to PSG, but league form has been a lot better for the Champions as they climb the table. In honesty, I do think Les Mauves will win and win well.

Genk’s league form has been below average as they sit in 11th with only a 20% win record. No fault of Ingvartsen at all. In fact, he has gained the club 2 points through equalisers. But away this Sunday I just feel it’ll be a tough ask, with this being a good test for him and Genk and maybe produce a scalp too in the process. 

Pictures courtesy of Getty Images

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Tough Night for Anderlecht

In build to tonight Anderlecht literally have nothing to lose. Zero points, no goals scored and 6 conceded. They’ve been so bad even Celtic beat them, which is no offense to Celtic,but it’s mainly because they can be awful outside of Glasgow. But besides that, in terms of glamour groups, you’d put Group B up there by stature of clubs. When the draw was made you’d be excited if you were an RSCA fan at the calibre of opposition, and in all honesty, praying for 3rd place.

However, the poor form in the league followed them abroad and have looked hapless. No Belgian side has won in any European match this season, qualifying or group stage. So Anderlecht aren’t the only disappointment. Hein Vanhaezebrouck has been part of that though with the poor showing with Gent against Altach. 

But with a clean slate with Les Mauves, no fingers will be pointed at him in the Champions League this season. With Paris Saint Germain up next, a star studded team who have embarrassed Anderlecht before at the Constant Vanden Stock with Zlatan and company, now come with Neymar and friends (and Cavani) and tough is an understatement. But sitting here in anticipation, Vanhaezabrouck actually has an impressive record in the Champions League group stage, getting out of a group where you’d think Gent had no chance.

Finishing second behind Zenit St Petersburg, and above Lyon and Valencia, De Buffalos really outshone themselves massively, falling at the next hurdle against a Wolfsburg side containing another familiar face tonight in Julian Draxler. Obviously now all three of those are quality Europa League teams now, but then they were decent, and above all else, it was Gent and Vanhaezebrouck’s first season in the competition. It does make you think he may know what his doing on the grandest of stages with ‘minnows’.

Unfortunately for him, he has a points, goal difference and games deficit before tonight which isn’t helpful and chances of being in Europe after Christmas looks more…impossible, rather than unlikely. Another unfortunate thing is that you can’t see a gluttony of quick fire goals tonight like last Friday, but you could envision 3 conceded again. As I’ve said, with nothing to lose could Anderlecht look to attack at home, or do they battle for a point, not knowing how important that could be when they travel to Scotland on match day 6? 

People in England after the last round of matches have honestly said Celtic could finish above Bayern Munich. Obviously that is feasible, but Jupp Heynckes isn’t a fool, especially in this competition. Meaning if Anderlecht gain draws before they play Celtic, and somehow win away, they could do what I feel is the impossible and go through to the Europa League. 

All said and done this is a tough task, starting with tonight, but even I have renewed optimism with HVB in charge and with a fresh, positive outlook, a hope for tonight is a tight defensive, clinical finishing and complacency from PSG.
All pictures courtesy of Getty images

Posted in Uncategorized

Pitch Perfect…Well…Almost

Yesterday I once again received notification that 6 of the 8 football pitches used over match day 10 were given perfect scores by some sort of committee. The thing is, the life of a football groundsman is long, arduous, and in some ways, underappreciated.

Usually starting their day before the sun comes up (in winter) they get to the stadium and have to constantly be meticulous perfectionists everyday. If we work our way from the morning after the night before, a groundsman will firstly sweep the pitch. I know, they actually get a broom and drag it up and across the pitch, removing any thatch on the playing surface.

They then tend to not cut it, but run something that looks suspiciously like a lawnmower. Basically a big, heavy petrol powered vacuum that sucks up what wasn’t swept. Then the cutting begins, but before that they mark out the stripes on the pitch and cut as close as possible to the string, going up the inside and outside, up and down. 

Then they cut it or double cut it. Day in, day out apart from when they treat it. And the point of this explanation is that to play good football, you do need a good groundsman. They work more hours than the players and a pitch is only as good as it investment. For example, Arsenal have a semi synthetic pitch where the root is around about a foot below the surface. Nothing will ever rip that out. Whereas Lokeren last season had mud, grass and sand to aid with drainage. In this case, more money, less problems.

When you look at football pitches, I do believe grounds staff are getting the praise they deserve, and a poor pitch tends to be due to lack of investment. To have the score regarding pitch quality that the league received is outstanding, and I’m sure Sint Truiden’s astroturf pitch isn’t rated? At the end of the day I wrote this as it isn’t my usual post, plus if fans didn’t give enough thought into how much work is done for your benefit come Friday, Saturday or Sunday, now you have some idea, even though it was brief…

Posted in Uncategorized

Is an Assist Really All That?

Randomly out and about today my phone went off. It was an update on how well Ruud Vormer has done as he has now created 9 goals in the last 10 Pro League matches this season. Yes, great achievement although I’m sure I’ve counted 10, and through a reliable source it is ten as I’ve seen them. To be that consistent in his position, for a big club, aiding towards the success of the team. Very good. But who thinks an assist is worthy to talk about?

When I was younger, and I’ve heard Cesc Fabregas say this recently that he felt more joy assisting a goal rather than scoring. I used to oddly feel the same. To thread a ball through a defence inch perfectly or weighting a ball to the striker, crossing a pinpoint ball on to your teammates head was a thrill. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to view an assist in a different way.

 As lame and boring as I am, I actually looked at all Club Brugge matches this season where the playmaking Dutchman has assisted in. You can obviously give your opinion if you have 10 minutes to kill because it doesn’t take long to find. The thing that is extremely helpful is that if you’re the set piece taker, well…it helps. To be fair he can flight a ball into the box. What’s even better is that a Blauw-Zwart head gets onto the end of it.

Out of his 10 assists, half of those have come via a corner or free kick, not only showing the importance of a set piece, but taken correctly you can in fact gain an advantage from it. Sprinkled amongst those are ‘assists’ that aren’t exactly threading the needle type of passes. Against Charleroi, the ball basically nicked off of the outside of his boot, a square ball versus Gent and essentially a tackle against Eupen where Dennis Bonaventure did the rest. 

The only time I have sympathy is that against Mechelen he wasn’t given an assist for Wesley’s goal. But, as much as it sounds like I feel what he has done so far this season isn’t good, it really is. But look back against Charleroi, Eupen, even Sunday for the winner versus Oostende and tell me if that’s worth his assist bonus (assuming he gets one). But if a throw in or goal kick, a hoof downfield towards the furthest attacker up the pitch can be classed as an assist, then sorry, my perception has changed. 

Along with this, if a goalkeeper can claim an assist from his own six yard box, then we should really take some time to appreciate Colin Coosemans cross for Mechelen against Mouscron. 

Posted in Matches in Brief

Three is the Magic Number

Yesterday saw the end of another round of matches come and go. A 3rd of the regular season has come and gone. We saw Standard Liege win their 3rd matches of the season. Antwerp have lifted themselves to 3rd in the table and in all 3 of yesterday’s matches saw the winners score 3. How convenient.

And we begin with Standard, where I’ve read recently that this match could have been make or break for Ricardo Sa Pinto. Whether or not that’s true I don’t know but a bit drastic if that was the case. However, if it were he may have been nervy after 10 minutes when Kristof D’Haene opened the scoring. However, Edmilson Jr struck back two minutes later, before Sa Pinto’s compatriot Orlando Sa scored at the double to make it 3-1 at half-time and seal the win. 

The match also saw 2 red cards, with Larry Azouni seeing red in the first half and Sebastian Pocognoli receiving his marching orders halfway through the second half. As I’ve said, a big win for the hosts lifting themselves up into 9th, with 2 tough away games coming up. Kortrijk haven’t won in 7 now after a positive start to the season. Key injuries may be a factor, but nonetheless it has been a steady decline.

The second match yesterday saw top versus bottom at the Versluys Arena. And from minute 1 Club Brugge meant business with Ruud Vormer opening the scoring. But then some quality goals were seen. Firstly, a simple corner routine saw Sebastien Siani drill home an effort from the edge of the box, but then Blauw-Zwart hit back with an unmarked bullet header by Wesley. But again the leaders were pegged back with a pinpoint strike but Franck Berrier. A real quality goal by the Frenchman making in 2-2 before the break.

The second half was mainly full of yellow cards as to be honest, I’m sure De Kustboys would’ve taken a confidence boosting draw. But there’s something about this Brugge side rout now. Anthony Limbombe, the hero against Charleroi, hit another 93rd minute winner to break Oostende hearts. He picked up a second yellow card for his celebration, stupidly, but nonetheless, they never give up! It’s still positive for Oostende in some ways as they are looking better, regardless of result.

Lastly, Antwerp dismantled Zulte Waregem as they fall to their second defeat in a row, and saw themselves drop to 7th in the process. A fine Obbi Oulare opener saw the Great Old on their way, and a second came seven minutes later through an own goal. A second half penalty from Geoffry Hairemans after Michael Heylens saw red as well, the 4th red card of the day in the Pro League.

After the match, Franck Dury had some words for his players, saying Antwerp had a winning mentality amongst other things, sending a message to his squad. After a promising start, even Anderlecht have overtaken them and Zulte have sort of slept walked themselves into this position. Antwerp on the other hand have possibly had the toughest start (as I’ve regularly said) and have been brilliant. Every match they bounce back when they suffer a reality check and perform outstandingly well which is testament to the players and Bölöni.

Posted in Matches in Brief

Maiden Wins for the Newbies

Five matches played so far back in the JPL and with the main talking leading up to this round surrounded Anderlecht and Gent. Two new managers in the hot seat, both Hein Vanhaezebrouck and Yves Vanderhaeghe both have fire they have to put out and restore confidence, and hopefully flair, back into 2 quality teams.

And out of the two managers I’m going to start with Vanderhaeghe, mainly because in my opinion, one of the major factors of being successful and, well, very good is confidence. The former Oostende manager hasn’t won a single league match at all this season and for all we know, privately, he may have been doubting himself professionally. 

Going into tonight, Gent had possibly a tougher task than we all thought. Beveren can be a dangerous outfit and are tough to beat. That proved to be the case as it was goalless going into half time. But, going into the last quarter of the match, the new boss decided to bring on Samuel Kalu. A stroke of genius. Not only did he make an instant impact to make it 1-0 seconds after coming on, he sealed the win in the dying embers to rack up 3 points. Rudy Camacho saw red for the visitors to cap off Beveren’s night.

But kicking the night off, Charleroi were hoping to basically revitalize their form. After an unbelievable start they’ve slowed down recently and even the international break didn’t help. Amara Baby hit a double either side of the break, with an Mbaye Leye penalty squeezed in between. However, with time ticking away, Eric Ocansey hit a late equaliser, with Leye claiming the assist. 

Les Zébres have only won once in the last 5 and have thrown away points in the meantime, which I’m sure Mazzu won’t be happy with. Charleroi have gone from dogged battlers, to late bottlers, conceding extremely late against Beveren, Brugge and now Eupen. The Pandas on the other hand may not have won again, but are showing grit and determination by not giving in at a difficult place to go! 

Tucked in between were 2 1-1 draws at the Luminus Arena and the Daknamstadion. In the former, Mouscron took the lead through Dorian Rotariu just before half time. But Marcus Ingvartsen again came up with another equaliser. I picked him out in my build up blog because he seems fresh and exciting right now in a Genk side who seem stale. They started off last season in an average manor and they’ve done the same this term. 

Mouscron on the other hand may have only drawn, but don’t you think their fans would’ve taken that beforehand? I guess the only negative recently is, much like Charleroi, they’ve dropped points late on now and resilience is key. Without moaning at Charleroi but praising Mouscron, for me, they both have different targets, with one exceeding theirs, and the other probably hitting them to be fair.

The second 1-1 was possibly the least glamorous of the five fixtures played so far. A Jordan Botaka goal just after the break was cancelled out, much like the previous match, in the 81st minute by the Swede Robin Söder. STVV have settled down recently and have slowed down their tremendous early season form. Without being spectacular, they are still claiming points, even though it’s turned into a dripping tap of points rather than the early season gushing through victories after Jonas De Roeck joined. 

Lokeren are steadily plodding along. Unable to build off their fantastic away win against Zulte Waregem last time out, they still turned zero points into 1 and never seem to give up right now.

Lastly, we come to the other maiden manager who kicked us off with an absolute belter on Friday night. After Pieter Gerkens hit his first of the season, Onyekuru doubled the lead, only to be immediately pegged back through Rob Schoofs. However,the Nigerian bagged his second almost immediately himself, and then Lukasz Teodorcyzk got himself in on the action. A 4-1 scoreline before half time, Vanhaezebrouck was loving this. The problem was, if the second half was longer than 45 minutes, it may have ended 4-4 instead of 4-3!!! Mechelen showed character whereas Les Mauves may have switched off as it finished 4-3 at the AFAS Stadion. 

So from everything looking spectacular in the first 45 minutes, it showed there’s still plenty of work to do at Anderlecht to ensure they can still maybe challenge at the top, rather than scrap for Europa League. Mechelen on the other hand just aren’t doing it. Without being unfair, I thought Yannick Ferrera may have been ousted by now, but maybe that second half performance has saved him for another week, in my opinion.

The problem is that it’s so difficult to see goals so I’m giving my opinion on scoreline and sometimes you can judge a match through time as well as anything else. There is a slowing of form at certain clubs and they’ve all hit a sticky patch (Charleroi, Sint Truiden) but as long as they’re claiming draws instead of defeats, there’s not too much to worry about just yet.

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Omar Govea

In this section I am trying to pick a player from each club once throughout the season, as its only fair, and with tomorrow being Genk vs Mouscron, why not pick one of the pivotal players for the rejuvenated club who stayed up by the skin of their teeth last season. 

And as mention, at the Luminus Arena there’ll be a fine midfielder on show. Fluent in Spanish, pulls the strings, can score and assist, yes that’s right…Omar Govea! You wasn’t thinking Pozuelo were you? Anyway, the young Mexican has been possibly one of the signings of the summer. On loan from Porto he has helped revitalize this club who, if I’m honest, I’d written off the summer.

Since his arrival, the club have found themselves in 3rd! And he has a lot to do with that. Aiding with 3 goals and an assist, it’s his off the ball defensively which is key for the team. For me, he seems like a leader who has settled quicker than snowing that central midfield position.

You can also kind of see that he does play a deeper role as he always finds space outside of the box for his long range efforts, rather than a six yard tap in. He can be deadly accurate from distance and against a Genk side who will probably be more cautious against this Mouscron side, they will still feel the need to ‘ve the more attack minded side, which may be hard work for the diminutive Mexican, but may also find him with space bow and again to pick his passes, and maybe, his spot in the top corner.

The last time these 2 met in Genk, well, the less said the better for the visitors as they were destroyed 6-0 in last season’s play offs, but you won’t have to go back to far for Mouscron’s last away win there, with an impressive 4-0 away win almost 2 years ago to the day. I’m sure both teams will score, and Mouscron will want to put their last result behind, surprisingly throwing away a 2 goal lead against Mechelen, which could now be a wake up call to not be too complacent.

When all said and done, Govea will hope to put in his typical, quality performance tomorrow and come next July, I’m sure the club from the Stade Canonnier would love to make his deal permanent!
(Pictures courtesy of Getty Images) 

Posted in Matches in Brief

Match Day 10 is Upon Us

Two weeks…TWO BLOODY WEEKS!!! I’ve been vocal yet quiet, trying to get to grips with no Belgian football and revitalizing myself, trying to crack on with this on a regular basis. Then I decided I love doing this, regardless of who reads this and I do it for my enjoyment again.

But to the point, we dive right into tonight where Hein Vanhaezebrouck takes charge of his first match with Anderlecht. Les Mauves travel to Mechelen where they’ll hope to continue their decent form of late, and will hope Henry Onyekuru’s fine form will continue. I can’t help but think this could be pretty one sided, with Colin Coosemans being busier in his own 18 yard box rather than the opponents. But with the possibility of a fresher outlook, I’m sure Anderlecht’s form may turnaround, even under a Gent reject.

Saturday sees us begin with Charleroi taking on Eupen. The visitors surprised me last time out with a spirited performance they through away against Genk. Charleroi are probably pretty happy they have the bottom side after the international break as they’re performances of late have looked jaded. For the Pandas, I’m sure they’d like more goals chipped in from attackers, rather than Leye, and with the hosts, they’d still want Rezaei firing on all cylinders.

Next up is potentially the match of the weekend in my opinion. Genk host Mouscron where the visitors have been a real surprise package, and Genk have been…blurgh. I have a feeling there’ll be goals from both sides as Mouscron have goalscorers from all over, whereas Genk have attacking quality up top. Without continuously mentioning the same names…I won’t here, with Ingvartsen being my top player last time out.

Lokeren welcome Sint Truiden where, if this was a month ago there’d only be one winner. Now, that’s reversed as I feel Lokeren could well take all 3 points here. The likelihood is probably a draw because as well as Peter Maes has ‘settled the ship’, they’re still unpredictable. De Kanaries will hope to just get back on track as they’ve been as good as Mouscron, well, to a degree.

Lastly on Saturday, another club unveil their manager with Yves Vanderhaeghe making his bow in the home dugout for Gent. You could say, much like Vanhaezebrouck, it’s a bit of a gimme, but I think this is tougher than Anderlecht’s match. Beveren maybe without Gano (okay, his gone I know!) They are a threat through replacement Kiese Thelin and the better Japanese on show, Ryota Morioka. Yuya Kubo will hope to outshine his compatriot, with the help of his teammates, but I think maybe…just maybe, Gent will squeak this one.

Going into Sunday, Standard will hope they can continue their fine home form against a Kortrijk side who embarrassed them last season. Paul-Jose Mpoku will hope to be the hero again, although De Kerels are dangerous without being clinical, if that even makes sense? 

Now…Oostende really have a task on their hands hosting already the champions elect in Club Brugge. With a plethora of strikers in the Brugge squad, they could really take advantage here even if Oostende grabbed their first win last time out, believing they can fly! 

And finally, Antwerp will look to put on a show and a performance at the Bosuilstadion against Zulte Waregem. Zulte, like most, will hope to bounce back after last time out as they signed off the last round of matches to a defeat against Lokeren. Antwerp have had it rough early on playing against basically every top side in the league so far and Franck Dury will hope to do what many haven’t and take 3 points back to Waregem with him against a quality Antwerp side.

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: Jean-Marie Pfaff 

Lastly in my trio of goalkeepers this week is probably, if not definitely the best of the bunch. All 3 goalkeepers had something in common. They all only conceded 24 goals in the seventies, but this one went on to achieve massive success. 

Jean-Marie Pfaff started off his career at KSK Beveren where he would spend 10 years at the club. Ten years where he would achieve massive success close towards the end of the decade. Before his title winning season, the first ever in KSK Beveren’s existence, he would help the team to the Belgian Cup, as well as picking up the Golden Shoe too in 1978. 

In his title winning season, he most definitely aided in the clubs success by helping out defensively. It was so impressive that he would become the national goalkeeper for Euro 1980. Along with that, and moving ahead, he would remain the Belgian number one at 4 successive tournaments, including two world cups! 

Once the World Cup in Spain 82 was over, he would make a major move abroad to Germany, joining Bavarian giants Bayern Munich. Whilst in Germany he would once again earn major successes individually and within the team. Winning 3 Bundesliga titles and 2 German cups in his 6 years with Bayern, he would also win the inaugural World’s Best Goalkeeper award in 1987. 

After that spell he moved back to Belgium with Lierse for one season, before ending his career in Turkey with Trabzonspor. A glittering career where he was consistently one of the best goalkeepers in the world for around a decade. After football he went on to manage Oostende in 1998/99 and looking back he has had quite an eclectic life.

In 1982, he nearly drowned at the World Cup after a journalist pushed the Belgian into a swimming pool, not knowing he couldn’t actually swim. He also had his own reality show involving his family for 10 years this millennium. But the world class keeper will never be forgotten for how good he was. So good, Pele voted him amongst the Top 125 Living Footballers, and with that honour, it all began in small humble surroundings in Beveren.
All pictures courtesy of Getty Images