Posted in Matches in Brief

It’s Finally Back

Yes…after a break from league football, the Pro League is back in action with a massive match tonight!

Play Off 1

Tonight’s affair is between Croky Cup Winners Zulte Waregem and regular season league leaders Anderlecht. For me, I’d try and treat all these play off matches as a clean slate, but seeing as all these teams have contested each other twice this season, the players probably can’t think like that. With the best of the best all playing each other as well, anything could happen on a Friday night!

Tomorrows meeting is between Charleroi and Oostende. Charleroi held the upper hand during the season in the meetings, but Oostende may be like a wounded animal after losing the Croky Cup final 2 weeks ago, so this should be a competitive and possibly tight match Saturday evening. 

Sunday brings probably the best match for me. Gent, who sneaked into Play Off 1 on the last day, host champions Club Brugge. We’re talking about the champions​ visiting a real quality Gent side, who like Oostende in one way, may still be smarting from their Europa League exit and will want to finish the season positively.

Play Off 2A

Sint Truiden kick this section off Saturday night against a Beveren side, who in my opinion, performed really well towards the end of the regular season. Both totalling the same amount of points, this could be a tight match again on Saturday, with maybe the quality of Olivier Myny being the difference for the visitors.

The second match Saturday in Play Off 2A involves Mechelen, who just missed out on Play Off 1, travelling to Union Saint Gilloise. This should be a Mechelen win, let’s move on, and with Union winning just 5 at home, a home win doesn’t look too likely for me.

The final match in this segment involves Lierse hosting Standard Liege. Standard will want to do as well as they can because European football next season is key to them with signings and prestige, but if they continue in the same way they did in the league, I just cant see them getting into Europe overall, but they will fancy their chances in the Play Offs.

Play Off 2B

All these matches will be played Saturday night, with Kortrijk Vs Mouscron and Eupen Vs Roeselare kicking off simultaneously. In Play Off 2B I just feel that it’ll be 100% home wins in all 3 fixtures, but Mouscron proved how handy they are away at Kortrijk on the last day of the season.

Eupen, along with Beveren earlier, also impressed me towards the final stages of the season, and with Roeselare coming to town, I just feel the Pro League side will have too much tomorrow evening with their attacking strength.

The big fixture in this bracket kicks off 30 minutes after the other two, with Europa League quarter finalists Genk welcoming Lokeren. Lokeren have shown they can perform against the better teams, but thats mainly at home. With Pozuelo, Trossard and Samatta coming to the party, I just see one outcome here.

The thing with football, and especially in Belgium, is that Union Saint Gilloise, Lierse and Roeselare could all spring surprises, and with 2 of the 3 at home, there could be outcomes I for one don’t expect, but I just feel the favourites may just come out on top in the end.

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Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Hamdi Harbaoui 

With the remainder of the season kicking off tonight, I thought I’d write about somebody all of Belgian football would know about over the past decade. Once top goalscorer back in 2013/14 with Lokeren, he’ll hope to continue to find the back of the net with age. 

Hamdi Harbaoui has had a topsy turvy season and thankfully for him, the Tunisian will be glad it will continue in terms of minutes played. Starting the season in Italy at Udinese, he played zero minutes with the Italian side before coming back to Belgium with a stellar move to Anderlecht. Not that it was hell in Italy as he’d only just joined, he’ll maybe feel less homesick and comfortable back in Belgium.

This is where I think it may not have been as great for him. After scoring on his second appearance for the team from Brussels, he only managed 8 appearances and managed 174 minutes in total in the Pro League. His saviour… Charleroi. 

The 32 year old probably missed out on league starts due to the impact Lukasz Teodorczyk has made for Les Mauves, which is understandable really, but Charleroi knew what they were doing snapping up a potent and reliable front man to see them into Play Off 1. Playing every minute for Les Zèbres, he has helped the team maintain their 6th place finish and in terms of minutes played, he has managed 810 minutes in comparison.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Harbaoui has pitched in with 3 goals in 9 starts for Charleroi since joining, including one against this weekends opponents Oostende. I’m sure he’ll feel refreshed and raring to go after all Pro League teams took a break from league football recently.
Speaking of this weekends opponents, Charleroi have managed to do the double over De Kustboys already this season, with both matches finishing 2-1, and with the match being at the Stade du Pays De Charleroi, I’m sure the home side will definitely fancy their chances of getting 3 points and maybe a goal from Harbaoui along the way will help!

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Looking over the Play Offs

Leading up to the first round of Championship play off fixtures, I thought I’d look at where the teams would’ve placed if their meetings throughout the season meant anything in the final part. I think I even lost track of what I just typed there! But anyway, here is how the teams faired.

Top of the top 6 form tree would be Anderlecht (unsurprisingly). The team who finished top in the regular season is also the form team in this top 6 head to head. They managed to win 50% of their matches, losing 20% and averaging 2.4 goals for per game. For me they have the momentum going into this, putting a fantastic run together towards the end of the season, resting players and progressing in the Europa League too.

Their closest challengers according to the standings is (unsurprisingly again) Club Brugge. The reigning champions in this mini league are only a point off Anderlecht in this head to head, also winning 50% of their matches, but for me, even though they have a fantastic defensive record, conceding in 4 of their 10 games, the firepower is pretty tame, scoring 11 goals and that could be their downfall. One goal is all it takes of course, but when you havent scored away at all in the regular season against Anderlecht, Zulte Waregem, Gent, Oostende or Charleroi, the best you can hope for is a point. They did however get 100% of points at home.

Third in this segment is… Charleroi! Finishing​ 6th in the regular season, a point ahead of both Mechelen and Genk, it was their home form that saw them succeed here managing 10 points at home, losing only to Anderlecht. I think what helped Charleroi get into this position is the fact they just went about their business. I thought they were impressive seeing as at one stage they had tricky fixtures in which they overcome superbly in 2017. I think getting into Europe is their primary aim and would be a great achievement.

The next team is Gent, who snuck in on the last day. Now out of the Europa League, that may act as a positive going into this championship play off. Their record isn’t actually too impressive, managing the same amount as defeats to victories, but mainly drawing the majority of their head to head fixtures. The thing is on their day, Gent can be very good so don’t be surprised with a good end to the season. 

Oostende are 5th in this break down. Like Club Brugge away, goals are a problem for De Kustboys who have the worst goals to game ratio, scoring 9 in 10 against the rest of the top 6. That sort of shocked me with their decent strike force of Dimata and Musona, but they will hope to bounce back after their loss in the cup final. They average a point per match.

Lastly it is the cup winners Zulte Waregem who have a dismal 8 points out of a possible 30 in this head to head. Their only victory came against Anderlecht at home. Along with their terrible points, their goal difference is pretty poor too, with a -10 goal difference. With the Beker van Belgie in the bag, hopefully they’ll turn their attention to the league now regarding their opposition for the rest of the season.

Teams                  P   W  D  L  F    A    Pts                                                                                                                                                                               Anderlecht         10  5   3   2  24  15    18                                                               Club Brugge       10  5   2   3   11   5     17                                                               Charleroi            10  4   2   4  11   12    14                                                               Gent                     10  3   4   3   13  10    13                                                               Oostende            10  2   4  4    9   14    10                                                               Zulte Waregem 10  1   5   4   10  20    8

That’s the head to head table. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how the top 2 finish and in that order, and then it’s a bun fight for the remaining positions, including the Europa League! I’m sure there’ll be plenty of twists and turns however before the end of the season, as there tends to be in Belgium!

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: KV Oostende 2012/13

I’ve decided to blog random bits of history, whether it be about the Belgian Pro League, the second tier, European competition or The Belgian Cup (Beker van Belgie). The reason I’ve thought up this segment is not only to educate myself about the past, but to anyone who reads this, if anyone actually does, and to see that Belgian football isn’t about 1 or 2 teams, or the odd great player produced quite regularly actually, and that teams in the past competed and that the impossible is sometimes possible.

Because of the bad luck of the cup final against Zulte Waregem recently, I thought I’d go back and share Oostende’s last real success, their promotion from 4 seasons ago. Looking at the league and how it finished, it looked as if getting out of Belgium’s second tier that season is as tough as the English Championship. To name but a few, there was Oostende themselves, Mouscron, Westerlo, Antwerp, Eupen and St Truiden amongst others!

The team were managed by the young Frederik Vanderbiest who finished his career at Oostende, and who is the current manager of Lierse. He proved that experience meant nothing this season, progressing so well with De Kustboys in the Belgian Second Division. 

The league was split into 3rds, with Oostende finishing top in 2 of the set of thirds which helped cement their place at the top. The first set didn’t see them in the top 5, gaining 15 points and losing 3 in the process, but with the next 2 set of matches, they excelled!

Firstly in the second set, they finished top, winning 10 of 12 matches and gaining 31 points. They replicated this in the final third of matches in a league of 18 teams. To not only double your points in the first set of matches, and then show perfect consistency, it didn’t just show great management, but supreme focus by the players, a set of players who showed their quality. Three players finished amongst the top scorers, with Laurent Depoitre finishing on 14 goals, going from strength to strength after this season, Yohan Brouckaert with 11 goals to his name from midfield and Frenchman Baptiste Schmisser pitching in with 9 goals from centre half. With goals coming from all positions, it showed why Oostende were champions and deservedly so.

After their first first promotion in 9 years, Oostende have proven a key outfit in the top flight in Belgium, going from strength to strength again, finishing their first season back in 9th position and top of their Europa League play off group. Due to not having a European football license, they were unfortunately denied any access into European football, unfairly in my opinion. The best finish since returning to the Pro League is 5th in the Championship Play Off, but we’ll see what this season brings?

Posted in Player Profile, Uncategorized

Speaking of Goals…Erwin Vandenbergh

Today I seem to have decided to write about goalscorers, currently in the present and not too distant past, but then I decided to write about one of the best. Erwin Vandenbergh.

If you look at his physique, and you’ll see later, he looks like a stick figure. Somebody who probably may not have made it today physically perhaps, but he was somebody who probably also would’ve been worth millions due to his knack of finding the back of the net. In fact, he reminds me physically of Thomas Müller.

Born in Ramsel, a nearer club to start his career would’ve been Westerlo, and it’s no surprise his son Kevin started his career there, but Vandenbergh senior started off at Lierse S.K. His breakthrough season was the 1976/77 season, the season after the Pro League top scorer happened to leave Lierse, Hans Posthumus, went to pastures new, back to Holland with NEC Nijmegen. 

Starting at an early age, the prodigious striker took 4 seasons til he really started to show his real goalscoring quality, netting 39 goals for a Lierse side that finished 6th that season. He went on to win the Taureau D’or another 3 seasons in a row, 4 consecutively. The unbelievable thing is that, a lot like my Taureau D’or blog today, he finished top scorer, but didn’t win a league title! Okay, at Lierse fighting against Club Brugge and Anderlecht, who were fantastic at home as well as in Europe at that time, when he finally moved to Anderlecht, he still didn’t win a league as top scorer, finishing second.

Courtesy of Getty Images

In that spell of fantastic personal glory, he managed 108 goals in 4 seasons, obviously averaging 27 goals a season. The year he joined Anderlecht, as already stated, they finished 2nd, but… he did manage to win his first piece of silverware helping Les Mauves win their first UEFA Cup beating Benfica in the final. Vandenbergh managed 7 goals in that seasons UEFA Cup, making him the second top scorer and what helped Anderlecht was having Kenneth Brylle Larsen pitch in with 5 goals himself in that seasons tournament.
After that cluster of Golden Boots, he eased off as top scorer, and 2 seasons after that European success, he won his first of 2 league titles. Of course with trend, he wasn’t top scorer the first title winning season, but bucked the trend the following season, winning his 5th Taureau D’or scoring 27 goals that season and winning his second and last league title.

After being unbelievable in Belgium, he moved to Lille in France and joined up with compatriot Phillipe Desmet. After finding his feet in his first season, Erwin wasnt amongst the Ligue 1 top goalscorers. His strike partner however did chip in with 13 goals that season. Thereafter, Vandenbergh seemed to slightly adapt, helping Lille progress in the league each season, starting at 14th when he joined, then raising to 12th the next season before achieving the clubs highest finish whilst he was there, finishing 8th. Along with the higher finishes, it’s no surprise he added more goals, scoring 11 league goals in the 1987/88 season, and then 14 in the 1988/89.

Courtesy of Getty Images

After a poor season all round for the club and personally, the 1989/90 season was to be Vandenbergh’s last season in France. The goal scoring throughout his time was dominated by Jean-Pierre Papin, before returning back to Belgium with Gent. Along with his return he picked up where he left off, winning his 6th and final Taureau D’or, and helped his new club finish 3rd. After that season, he never hit the heights again and ended his career back in Brussels at Molenbeek. 
In club football, the Belgian was just fantastic. His goals dried up nearer the end of his career, but that was inevitable. What we should celebrate is a natural goalscoring talent who dominated in terms of goals, but unfortunately for him, lacked in honours at team level. Sixth on the all time list of top goalscorers with an impressive 252 goals in his career in the Pro League, some way off the all time record holder Albert De Cleyn, but to win the award 6 times is outstanding, and it could’ve been more if he didn’t move abroad?

Well played…

Posted in Uncategorized

Le Taureau D’or Race!

Ok, this marathon for top goalscorer in Belgium looks like it may be over, as Lukasz Teodorczyk is 5 goals ahead of his nearest contender, but it got me thinking, does being top goalscorer guarantee two things? Firstly, will that player even remain at the club he is at the next season, and secondly, does a top goalscorer guarantee a title?

I went allllll the way back to the turn of the millennium, well, the 2000/01 season to check all of this out, and what it shows is that 17 years isn’t long in the grand scheme of things, but a whole lot can happen, some glorious and some extremely tragic.

In this list of top goalscorers, the same name crops up just twice through Jeremy Perbet and a player I had on the back of an old Ajax shirt, Wesley Sonck. These 2 are the only two who appear on the list twice in the timescale I looked at. The other thing is that only 5 Belgians appear on the list, the last being Romelu Lukaku in the 2009/10 season…7 years ago! That either shows the lack of quality Belgian finishers, or more likely, they are signed up by a foreign club the minute they show real quality? 

This season’s top scorer, the already mentioned Lukasz Teodorczyk, follows two trends as well on this list, and depending on how the league finishes, it could be 3 ticks on this list. Firstly, he isn’t Belgian, he is Polish, meaning the foreign scorers keep growing. Secondly, unless I’ve missed a deal, he is on loan from Dynamo Kiev, so he won’t be at Anderlecht next season. The reason I’ve brought this up is that only 4 players have stayed put at the same club they scored their goals at. The third thing, if this does happen, is that you don’t necessarily win the league if you bag the goals.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Going from 5 Belgians, to 4 players remaining at their club, only on 3 occasions since the 2000/01 has being top scorer meant you’ve lifted the title as well. Tomasz Radzinski, Wesley Sonck and Romelu Lukaku are the only 3 to lift the league title and claim the Taureau D’or as well. The list of top goalscorers is impressive as well, with such names as Radzinski, Sonck, Lukaku, Ivan Perisic, Jeremy Perbet, Carlos Bacca and Aleksandar Mitrovic being amongst the names of Pro League top scorers. 

But amongst such quality there is that tragedy I mentioned, whether it be the demise of Germinal Beerschot, who had 2 top goalscorers back to back in 05/06 and 06/07, but one of them also being quality striker François Sterchele who sadly died the season after he hit the heights regarding goals. The other tragedy, similar to Germinal Beerschot, is that Mons, as they were, had 2 top goalscorers within this time, and they also dissolved just 2 years ago, an all too common fate to most Belgian clubs over time.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Sorry to end on a sad note, but it fascinated me how scoring goals doesn’t link to winning titles, staying at that club to maybe build something, or that being Belgian means that you’ll score goals in your country, but a move away is potentially most viable. So many connotations, maybe next term if you’re Jelle Vossen, youd be better off scoring 10 and winning a title, than being Belgian and scoring 25 as that only assures personal glory, going by history!

Posted in Transfers

Pro League Transfer Rumours 

I have never done this before, mainly because I’ve only had one window to deal with previously, plus, I detest transfer speculation because it’s not entirely factual, but with certain players and potential deals, I thought I’d write a brief piece regarding some players at certain clubs and what may lay ahead.

To go through every player in the Pro League, it’d take days. Well…It may take just one entire day, but even I’m not that desperate for a blog post that much. Luckily, most top players I looked up have actually signed extensions to their current deals. Of course this literally means nothing now except to bolster the transfer fee if another team is interested in their player, but nonetheless, until that happens, they’re staying put in Belgium!

Going alphabetically in terms of club names, and profile in this case, you have to look at Youri Tielemans at Anderlecht. I looked​ up potential suitors a couple of weeks ago before writing this and Roma were keen at that time, along with a Premier League club whos name has still stuck around, and that’s Arsenal. It’s no surprise he is linked with The Gunners. Young, midfielder, bags of quality and potential, it’s the perfect storm, but whether it’ll go ahead is another matter.

I did find 3 players linked with a move away from Standard Liege. Ishak Belfodil and Alexander Scholz have both been targeted by Everton, apparently. With Liege’s other top striker and their club captain linked away, Everton are in a building stage for next summer, maybe making their moves early in case Lukaku moves on, and if Ronald Koeman isn’t too keen on Jagielka and Funes Mori. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

The other player linked with England is Ibrahima Cisse. Fulham are said to want the midfielder and it would be a good move if the Cottagers continue their Championship form and get promoted.
Speaking of Fulham, major rumours that they were so close to signing Yohan Boli from St Truiden in the January window, maybe as the long term replacement for Moussa Sissoko? Or at the time, to send a Chris Martin back to Derby County?

Courtesy of Getty Images

Earlier in this piece when I spoke about new signings already made in Belgium, or signing extensions, they can sometimes mean nothing IF Lovre Kalinic leaves Gent this summer for pastures new, like England. West Ham, Southampton and again, Everton, have all been linked with the tall Croation shot stopper and in the case of 2 of those teams, they are in need of a new first choice in my opinion.
Lastly in this segment, the Bundesliga looks most likely for 2 Genk stars. Alejandro Pozuelo is a target for Bayern Munich supposedly whilst teammate Leandro Trossard is being looked at by Bayern’s rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund and Red Bull Leipzig. 

If any of these deals were to happen, it’d be a loss to the Pro League as these are all real quality players, and there is no surprise all their names are touted with bigger money and bigger leagues, but after all this is all speculation and the usual tittle tattle that comes from the internet or papers. Most of you who read this probably knew of the speculation anyway, but hopefully, these will stay simply as rumours.

Posted in Player Interview

Player Interview: Jordan Mustoe

With one Englishman down this season, I managed to catch up with the other remaining Brit plying their trade across in Belgium…But unfortunately not for too much longer.

After a short chat regarding where and when was best for the Scouser, Jordan Mustoe was more than happy to save me some time travelling, and money if I’m honest, and arranged a telephone interview Friday night.

The polite Westerlo left back was on his way to Manchester, via Amsterdam, and took some of his time out to talk a little bit about Belgium, Martinez and…Chinese?:

So Jordan, hows life been in Belgium the 2 years you’ve been over there?

Yeah been here 2 years and I’ve really enjoyed it. First couple of months were a little difficult, new experience for me, but after 3 or 4 months it became my home.

Have you tried learning the language?

NO. I had a go at the start but it was too difficult. I managed to pick a few of the words up but i found it too difficult. I’d rather just speak English really.

So how did the move to Westerlo actually come about?

My manager from Evo Management, he works with someone in London, and then he got in contact with an English guy who’s been living in Bruges for 25 years and he was close with the Westerlo manager, Dennis van Wijk, so I ended up going on a four day trial there.

Now that you’ve moved abroad, would you prefer to stay abroad?

Now that I’ve played abroad, I think it opens me up to more teams abroad. I might have a better chance of a good team coming out of the Belgian league. I’ve told my management that I’m open to offers anywhere in the world really.

Because your contract is up at the end of the season isn’t it?

Yeah it’s finished. We’re all looking for offers right now to see what we can do.

Are there any offers for you right now?

They’re trying to sort something out. I’m not sure if Westerlo will offer me something but to be honest, I don’t think going to the second division is a right move for me. But it is early doors isn’t it. I’m relaxed about it. No need to start panicking…Until July (with a slight laughter).

Why do you think English players tend to stay at home?

I was the same. I didn’t think I’d end up in Belgium or Europe anyway. I’m happy I came across and I think more players from England should. It’s a better standard than League 2/ League 1. If you do go abroad, it’s a different style of play which may suit certain players.

Would you say there’s been an improvement in Belgium, especially the way teams have performed in the Europa League?

I’d say a little bit yeah to be honest. You get more recognised when you do have these teams in the Champions League and Europa League performing better. I’m not sure if I recognise that myself because I’m in Belgium and I play in the Belgian league cause when I was back in England, I wasn’t paying attention to any Belgian teams.

You had a good run in the side and then didn’t feature at all. How frustrating was that for you?

Yeah it was frustrating. I had a run of 14 games. I started off out of the team and then the manager changed, put me in for these 14 games, lost a few on a run, changed the defence and then won and drew the next 2 games, which was my luck. That was a bit unfortunate for me but that’s swings and roundabouts in football. Like when I first got in the team, we went on a good run. But it is frustrating. I’m used to playing games from January til the end of the season and then I’d get a contract and wherever I go next, hopefully these lack of games won’t affect me too much in the future.

You’ve had 4 managers in you short spell at the club. Has that affected you off the pitch as well as on? That’s the equivalent of having a manager every 6 months after all.

It affects me when I’m not playing, but with each manager I had spells as their No.1 full back, even recently, in December I had a conversation with the manager saying I want you to play the next game, you’re the strongest full back I have at the club and literally, that was against Standard Liege, I gave away a hand ball, they score a penalty. Afterwards, next game, he changed it. Sometimes it’s a bit of luck you need.

Unfortunately, even though Westerlo are down, who else do you think may go? Silvère Ganvoula M’Boussy has already gone, who do you think may follow?

There’s a lot of of players out of contract so I think a lot will move on. I don’t know if anyone has anything lined up. I think only 5,6 or 7 players are contracted for next season. We’ll have to wait and see.

Speaking of managers previously, did you ever see Roberto Martinez taking over Belgium the way they currently are whilst you were playing under him at Wigan?

His management and tactics, he is very good so it didn’t surprise me but I think he did very well getting the job off of the back of not doing so well at Everton. He had a good go there (at Everton) for a while, but I think in the end, Everton can be a bit of a difficult team to manage, the fans can be hard at Goodison. He deserves a good job.

You were sent out on loan a fair bit at Wigan. How much did that help you with your progression?

I wish I did it earlier. I think I went out at 21, I should’ve done it at 19. But I was doing well in the first team. I should’ve been pushing to go out on loan earlier but in the end it worked out well.

When you were at Liverpool as a kid, was there anyone you tried to base your game on at the club?

To be honest…No. Even now I don’t watch anyone really. It’s just the way I’ve always been. Always been a bit laid back. Never really watched a lot of football when I was younger. I just really enjoyed playing.

So does that mean you didn’t watch Djimi Traore?

No, i never really watched a lot of Djimi (as he slightly chuckled)

Coming towards the end, I thought I’d ask some random questions, just to see how the player was off the pitch, apart from the first…

What were your favourite boots you ever had?

The old Adidas Predators when I was 10,11,12.

What’s your favourite dinner?

Favourite dinner…CHINESE.

Nice

I might have one tonight if I’m home early enough!

What do you usually have?

Sweet & sour chicken, to be honest, I usually get a banquet and we all share.

So what cartoons did you watch as a child?

The Simpsons. I never watched much telly but never missed The Simpsons.

And where is your favourite holiday destination?

Vegas or Dubai. Different holidays. Both top level. Vegas was a good one!

And on that note I thanked him, wished him good luck with next season, wherever he may turn up, wished him a good Chinese and safe travels. Such a polite player who seemed focussed but maybe a bit down trodden, not only regarding his clubs relegation, but maybe as well, the fact he never got given the chance to help do anything about it on the pitch. I also want to thank the press officer at KVC Westerlo for being so helpful arranging this.

I’ll sign off by saying that I hope Westerlo are able to bounce back from this next season and build for the future!

Courtesy of Getty Images
Posted in Uncategorized

Number Crunching

This blog post is a bit odd, probably comes across as no point really but I thought if every team went on to win after scoring the first goal, where would teams actually finish come the end of the regular season. Obviously and luckily, football isn’t a ‘first goal wins’ sport otherwise we’d never get classic matches and matches may only last 10 seconds sometimes if that were the case, but the importance of the first goal in a football match should never be underestimated.

The first goal can help a struggling side get confidence or give them something to hold on to. If they hold onto it long enough, it may be the difference between a win and a point. It can also help a neutral enjoy a match more through an incredible defensive display or with a plucky underdog performance which ensures a vital three points come the end of the season.

Along this process, I have made it so whoever did score first in the matches automatically receive 3 points. So if there was a 1-1 draw as well, whoever scored first in that fixture received the points. Also, if a team lost 4-1 but scored first, in this process they actually​ received the win and if there was a 0-0 draw then it’s a point to each. 

It was surprising to see who finished first and second mainly because it proves how well they started in their matches, but showed if their defences were better, they’d do so much better over the course of a season. And not giving too much away, the bottom 2 are different to the real bottom 2, again, proving how vital a solid defence is. The league from top to bottom is more condensed too, with 26 points separating top from bottom, whereas in reality, it was 38 points.

Not that anyone does care and people just want to know, here is the league table if it were based by who scored first:

1st Standard Liege          56 points.                                                                     2nd Genk                           55                                                                                   3rd Zulte Waregem         53                                                                                 4th Oostende                    52                                                                                   5th Gent                             50                                                                                 6th Anderlecht                46                                                                                 7th Mechelen                   46                                                                                   8th Club Brugge              44                                                                                 9th Charleroi                   43                                                                                 10th Kortrijk                    40                                                                                 11th Eupen                        39                                                                                 12th R E Mouscron         38                                                                                 13th Westerlo                  35                                                                                   14th Beveren                   34                                                                                 15th St Truiden               34                                                                                   16th Lokeren                   30

As you can see, Standard Liege (9th) and Genk (8th) finished top 2 whereas Anderlecht and Club Brugge are further down. Brugge haven’t even qualified for the championship play offs if this was how football was pointed. At the other end of the table, Lokeren (11th) and St Truiden (12th) would’ve been scrapping for survival. This obviously means nothing, but it is worth a look at if teams actually managed to hold onto their leads, and for those who haven’t done as well by this system, like the top 2, it shows how important 90 minutes are in a game of football to turn their fortunes around within that time. 

Also, like I’ve said, if anyone has taken the time to look at this, I firstly thank you, and secondly teams on the same points are tabled alphabetically by their common name, not by any other reason.

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: Zulte Waregem 2005/06

I’ve decided to blog random bits of history, whether it be about the Belgian Pro League, the second tier, European competition or The Belgian Cup (Beker van Belgie). The reason I’ve thought up this segment is not only to educate myself about the past, but to anyone who reads this, if anyone actually does, and to see that Belgian football isn’t about 1 or 2 teams, or the odd great player produced quite regularly actually, and that teams in the past competed and that the impossible is sometimes possible.

This edition involves the reigning cup winners from this weekend, Zulte Waregem, and how they won their first trophy eleven years ago!

Last time around, their run to the final was longer and tough to be honest, against a Mouscron side who’s run was a bit more simpler. For starters, Zulte began their run against the most successful team in competition history, Club Brugge, and defeated them with a 2-1 win at home. The next round was slightly easier, on paper, against division 2 team Verbroedering Geel but progressing with a less than convincing 1-0 win away. Then there were two 2 legged matches against Westerlo and Standard, defeating the former 4-3 on aggregate and then the latter 2-2, progressing on away goals.

Zulte’s opponent’s in the final, Mouscron, had an easier run in my opinion, and definitely made the most of it. In the 6th round they hosted Torhat 1992 KM and disposed of them with a 2-1 victory. The next round was also a home tie against second division RAEC Mons, in which the top flight side came out on top 2-1 again, setting up a 2 legged quarter final against Beveren in which they won 2-0 on aggregate, and then overcoming Charleroi in the semi final 2-1 on aggregate to set the final up.

With this being Zulte Waregem’s first final and Mouscron’s second, returning 4 years after their first in which they lost to Club Brugge 3-1, there was going to definitely be a new name on the trophy! By league position, you’d think Waregem would come out on top with 8 places separating them so confidence would be high, but in a cup final, form sometimes goes out of the window.

But in this case, it would’ve seemed it meant a bit more as only 11 minutes in centre half Stefan Leleu netted to set Zulte on there way. And as the game progressed, things seemed to be going Zulte Waregem’s way judging by the scoreline, then again it only takes a second to score a goal, and in the 62nd, that’s what Mouscron did to spice things up. Bosnian striker Adnan Custovic levelled the final, making the match interesting going into the last half hour and setting up a real climax.

With stoppage time looming, like this season, things were going into stoppage time and I’m sure fans were either glued to their seat or making plans for extra time. Those who may have thought about refreshments however will have regretted their decision, as current KV Mechelen striker Tim Matthys popped up with a winner one minute into stoppage time, sending the fans into raptures and tears of joy. 

Obviously with cup competitions and a lucky draw, Zulte Waregem may have thought they wouldn’t have to wait 11 years until they got their hands on the trophy again, but I’m sure the wait was well worth it. On the other hand, Mouscron were just ecstatic to be a top flight team again, let alone trophy success.