Posted in Matches in Brief

Lokeren Up and Throwing Away the Key

Bit of a weird title, however I have to pay homage to Lokeren after their fine display yesterday night. Of course I’ll go into detail, but within this group, Genk have continued to steamroll teams and around them, other sides string results together and then tail off. Within a week, three teams have held second place, showing how there’s a scrap below De Smurfen, but without actually challenging.

Starting with the leaders, Genk overpowered Kortrijk 3-0 at the Luminus Arena. I actually thought what if De Kerels turned up and put in a good defensive display, but they were comfortably thwarted by the hosts. First half goals from Trossard and Scrijvers put the hosts in an unassailable position due to their strength at home. Siebe Scrijvers doubled his tally on the night to cap off the scoring and it really showed Genk’s strength in depth as well as quality!

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Now to Lokeren who lit up the Daknam against Eupen. The visitors love a draw, managing to get 4 so far before they travelled to Lokeren, knowing a victory would make their season look better in the run in to finishing runners up to Genk in this group. But Lokeren have woken up recently and Tom De Sutter has to be thanked for that as well. Two first half goals from the big man either side of a Maric penalty, and then a Garcia penalty for Eupen out the hosts into a 3-1 half time lead. Eupen at the moment seem to be getting a few penalties recently I’ve noticed. Guus Hupperts rounded up the scoring in a magnificent 4-1 and deservedly so too, pushing Lokeren up to second after a dreadful start to their Europa League aspirations. Unfortunately, it’s looking too little, too late.

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Finally we have Mouscron hosting a winless Roeselare in a match that simply has to be played to fulfil fixtures. After a goalless first half, second half substitute Matulevicius scored just before the hour. The Lithuanian has played really well since join in January from Romanian outfit Botosani, and has grabbed a couple of goals for a misfiring team. The match seemed to die down at Le Cannonier where Mouscron managed to complete the double over the second tier side who are still looking for their first win in PO2B.

You don’t have to be a fan of Belgian football to know Genk have been irresistible and have just shown their unbelievable strength that goes further than their first XI. Also, that has been good competition but only between the 3 below them, with Mouscron being Roeselare’s bullies so far. 

Til next time…

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Relief in Liege as Mechelen Pull Away…Just

I was meant to write this blog post last night but totally forgot. I only just realised PO2A had been completed for this week and what a week it was…? Okay, bit over the top as one team has begun to pull away.

Staring with Friday, hold on…Wait for it… Standard Liege won! Yes I know, the impossible happened. Too sarcastic? Too…Harsh? Maybe, but they did and won convincingly 3-1 against former leaders Union Saint Gilloise. A quick start and a foundation to build on was what was needed and through Orlando Sa, that’s exactly what they got with an early lead. Using that platform, Les Rouches extended their lead from a corner with a powerful strike by defender Luyindama Nekadio. 

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Surely at 2-0 they’d go on to win, but that man Nicolas Rajsel pulled one back early into the second half, causing tension amongst Standard fans. But if Sa gets on the scoresheet, Ishak Belfodil has to as well, wrapping up the points with twenty minutes to go. I’ve said Standard are playing for pride now really, and this result may go a long way to restoring some of that!
Last night saw just 1 more goals in this group, with STVV snatching a crucial 1-0 away. Sint Truiden’s result looks better as they were away to a resurgent Beveren with the outstanding Pieter Gerkens coming up with the goods again. He is single handedly scoring the goals to keep De Kanaries in with a shout. 

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Mechelen plug away in every match right now. A 0-0 draw away at Lierse made the visitors finish the night 3 points ahead of the chasing pack. An evenly fought match that wasn’t high on chances, I’m sure this won’t live long in the memory, but for Mechelen, it edges them closer to that play off against Genk for the fight for the Europa League.

So on a dull Saturday, Standard take the plaudits with a confidence building win at home against USG. Sint Truiden also deserve a mention with a solid win for themselves at the Freethiel!

Posted in Matches in Brief

Is PO2B Dead and Buried?

I’ve said for weeks Genk have sewn up this play off group. Unstoppable either easing their way to victory or digging out results. But with the draw against Eupen on Wednesday, the group hasn’t exactly bunched up, but it could get tighter if the teams below begin to show up against Genk.

And that team is Kortrijk today. They emerged as the closest competition to Genk, overtaking Eupen into second out of nowhere. Fighting til the end in their recent matches has helped them gain 4 points against the aforementioned Eupen and then Roeselare during the week. I’m sure the hosts will take the points, especially at home scoring 10 and conceding just 2, they are just formidable at the Luminus Arena!

After bringing up Eupen, they travel to the Daknamstadion hopeful they can finally grab another win instead of a point. Undefeated in this group still, they are brilliant at picking up point, and I meant point as in singular. They’ve managed to gain 2 points and drop 4 so far. The main positive is that when they draw, they do it in style! Improving Lokeren have been progressing well recently. Starting against Eupen they managed to kick start their group stage by losing, then winning, then losing and finally drawing against today’s opponents. Then they finally won the week after before an incredible last minute draw against Mouscron, winning through an own goal before that own goal scorer Peyre equalised himself. I wouldn’t be surprised if goals were on the agenda today, but Eupen really need more than a point, and a lot of luck in Genk too.

On Sunday sees the wooden spoon match in this group between Mouscron and Roeselare. Pretty sure the only ones watching this match will be those arriving in Mouscron Sunday night, and that won’t be many! I’m sure the net will be found, and more than once, but in terms of quality, I’m not sure how much will be shown. Eight goals were shared last time these 2 met. I’d love another topsy turvy goalfest but I feel that’ll be unlucky tomorrow night!

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Yuya Kubo

When I write about players in a Player Profile, I usually write about players who will influence a match or deserve a shout out in a way where their consistency should be recognised. Yuya Kubo has been both. He has been a revelation since joining in January from Young Boys in Switzerland and Gent have just progressed, largely thanks to him!

The Japanese has settled extremely well at Gent. After picking up an injury at the back end of 2016, he lit up the Ghelamco Arena on his debut with a magnificent free kick against then leaders, Club Brugge. The set piece specialist scores all types of goals, whether from a dead ball, poaching a goal like on Tuesday against Zulte Waregem, or mazey individual efforts against Mechelen which could be described as Lionel Messi-esque. 

Still only 23, and of course Asian, he settled down well in a completely different culture, of course probably not too disimilar to Switzerland, but the league is totally different in terms of difficulty and structure. After picking up his injury though, it seems that he doesn’t always complete 90 minutes, but usually by then his job is done. Along with where he is from, he is already indispensable to the team. The point being sometimes players from that part of the world can be bought for marketing reasons, but this is most definitely for footballing reasons!

Courtesy of Getty Images

Scoring 8 goals in just 12 matches, an incredible return for somebody who has just hit the ground running. Able to play up front, off the striker or cutting in from the left, he can show flexibility to make room for Coulibaly or Moses Simon without putting himself out of place in the process. With that said, De Buffalo’s host Anderlecht on Sunday. A huge match where a victory would put them just 2 points off of the leaders with 12 points still to play for! What makes me think though is that with this form, as a team and individually, where would Gent be in the Europa League if he were eligible to play, or even if he started in July 2016 in this form?

With that question asked, the rest he had up until Gent were eliminated from Europe meant he could solely focus and rest up for Pro League matches, and that was certainly Gent’s gain judging by his performances, which has continued into the play offs scoring 3 in his last 3! I do not envy Mbodji and Spajic Sunday with the Japanese fronting the Gent attack!

Posted in Matches in Brief

Another Big Weekend in PO2A

If I’ve already had that title, I lose track of what I’ve put as a blog title, anyway…I’m sorry. But it’s true. Every team has something to play for, in Standard, and that’s what now makes this the most competitive set of fixtures, depending on what happens in PO1 this weekend!

Tonight sees Standard Liege take on, now, second placed Union Saint Gilloise at the Stade Maurice Dufrasne. Sixth placed Standard are seemingly falling apart. It is a shame. Everybody loves a competitive league and after a…blurgh season where they were the pinnacle of mediocrity, they are now slumbering around unable to get a win from anywhere. After USG’s loss midweek, they’ll just hope to get back on track, which is doable tonight. These two drew 2-2 in Brussels last time out with a last minute equaliser by Perdichizzi which stopped Liege’s first win in the play offs. Maybe this time round they may just grab it!

Saturday’s​ offering includes the resurgence of Waasland Beveren, who host Sint Truiden who have lost 2 on the bounce now. This is going to be a lot tougher than when they last met when Beveren collapsed in the second half and Sint Truiden took full advantage, winning 3-0! Zinho has been dangerous in front of goal recently and will look to continue his recent fine form, whereas Truiden have been rudderless recently in front of goal, having fired blanks in their last 2 matches. This will be intriguing because there’s a turnaround in form and will be close…

Lastly, Mechelen travel to Lierse. This was the match that kick started Mechelen’s run on form with a last gasp winner in a tight match then. Thereafter Lierse seemed to fall away but an encouraging midweek win away at USG could be what they needed going into this tough home match. With that home advantage, and Mechelen only able to score 1 goal per match, this could either be drab or an ‘upset’ which could blow this group wide open!

With these three matches, like I started with, other than Standard playing for pride, the other teams are definitely playing for points as every team at some point so far has put themselves in the mix for a Europa League play off!

Posted in Matches in Brief

Can Anderlecht Run Further Clear?

Tonight there is only one match in the Pro League, as Charleroi travel to Brussels, hoping to build on their win at the weekend. Les Mauves are hopeful to make  their points gap greater again after Brugge and Gent won earlier in the week. 

The thing is, Anderlecht have a game on their hands as Charleroi could still get a qualifying place in the Europa League. Of course mathematically they can get a Champions League qualifying place, but for me that’s less likely.

Without Hamdi Harbaoui due to Anderlecht being his parent club, they’ll have to rely on goals from elsewhere, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if the side from Brussels rotate and rest players, whether they be on the bench or out of the squad altogether.

The reason I say that last point is, and I know managers say they don’t look at the next match, but Anderlecht do have Gent away on Sunday afternoon, knowing a win tonight and maybe even Sunday will almost sew up the title for them. Charleroi travel to Oostende Sunday evening so a positive result in their eyes, along with a win for themselves on Sunday will put them in a strong position. Its not beyond Les Zèbres to achieve this so there is lots to play for amongst everyone else in this PO1, even if Anderlecht are in a league of their own…

Posted in Uncategorized

Tight Night in JPL 

All matches tonight looked like they would be tight beforehand really and it went that way I’m all honesty as the night went on. Four matches took place in all play off groups with some hoping to gain ground, and others hoping to leapfrog others.

Starting in Brugge, Oostende came to town hoping to resurrect themselves and at least put a positive spin onto the end of their season. With a good start that looked like that was going to happen as they took the lead through Nany Dimata, putting more pressure onto the hosts on the quarter hour. With that said, Brugge showed character and hit a quick fire double! Vossen got himself back amongst the goals, and with that confidence, Izquierdo decided to get himself back amongst the goals too! Going in 2-1 at the break, Brugge had something to hold onto going into the second half. With that said, Club still would’ve loved to kill the game off, and with 20 minutes to go, Izquierdo went some way to kill the game off with his second! Full time, 3-1 and Brugge will feel better tonight. More despair for Oostende who are ending the season with a whimper.

Courtesy of Getty Images

In PO2A, Mechelen had business to take care of against STVV, knowing a win would put them top. Knowing both could put a lot of pressure on Union, things looked as if they were putting more pressure on themselves. Unfortunately for…Sint Truiden, they cracked first as Tim Matthys set up Nils Schouterden to score just before the break. Things weren’t going the visitors way as we approached the latter stages of the match, which was ideal for Mechelen. I’m the end, Mechelen are nicking 1-0 home wins which they won’t mind, crawling towards the Europa League play off!

Going into the most uneventful group, Mouscron needed to bounce back against an improving Lokeren. As the first half wore on, Mouscron needed a confidence booster which was supplied by Nathan Kabasele. Unfortunately, that was too good to be true, and instead of building on that, Koen Persoons equalised really into the second half, bringing the hosts back down to earth, with both teams equally wanting a positive result. As time ticked on one team blinked in the 92nd minute. Mouscron conceded through an own goal from Thibault Peyre and Lokeren smash and grabbed 3 points! And if I’m honest, as I typed that, Mouscron amazingly equalised through villain come hero Peyre. Amazing scenes where yet again in Belgium, it ain’t over til it’s over! Astonishing match.

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With the other match going on, Genk just wanted to avoid defeat really travelling to Eupen. Everything was going well as goal machine Malinovskiy scored on 20 minutes. Eupen showed why they always score though, through their fantastic attacking ability…And Garcia’s nerves of steel from the penalty spot!

With both teams drawing, nothing really changed from before kick off and things keep getting better for group leaders Genk! Mouscron somehow escaped with a draw thanks to Peyre who tried his hardest to create tension and excitement! Amazing night in Mouscron amongst some other matches across the Flemish region.

Posted in Matches in Brief

Wednesday Night Football in Belgium

My titles in the build up to these midweek fixtures are not only inspiring but original of course, however, enough of that. Thanks to last nights result in all groups really (apart from Play Off 2B) tonight seems all the better for it!

Play Off 1

Starting, of course, from the top in regards of numbering, etc. we see Oostende make the shortish journey east to Brugge, where the hosts in my opinion are out of the title race, battling with Gent for second, against an Oostende side with much talent, but not the nouse to take the game and result. Both winless in 6 matches, something’s got to give, and really, I feel the hosts are under more pressure than De Kustboys. Obviously there’s pressure put on every team, but this lack of form from the reigning champions will just make them edgier wanting the result as much as needing it.

Play Off 2A

After Union Saint Gilloise’s result last night, Mechelen or Sint Truiden can close the gap or even overtake the leaders. With Lierse upsetting the apple cart, it’s a case of who has more bottle or who’ll take their chances! Mechelen were less than convincing against Standard going by this result last night, nicking a 1-0 win at the weekend, whereas STVV failed against current leaders USG at home on Saturday, meaning they fell behind tonight’s opponents. The fact this is such a tight group, Lierse have now joined the race along with Beveren, so the fight for a Europa League play off match is certainly up for grabs!

Play Off 2B

Not much to say really, even if the match of the night, in my opinion, will take place in this group. Genk face KAS Eupen in what I felt could’ve been a mini play off within a play off, but the superiority of Genk and Eupen’s inadequacy to win, even if victory is just there in front of them, Genk just have to basically avoid defeat. With their points cushion and supreme confidence, this match could go anyway they want it to go.

Finally, Mouscron welcome Lokeren who have turned their form around, throwing away their own lead against Eupen before snatching a point, and winning at home last time out, with Tom De Sutter starring all round. And you have Mouscron, the goal hogs in the past 2 matches with 14 goals scored in their matches. Just a shame for them that 9 of those were against them, but still, this match could be a goalfest. However, if they tighten up, I can imagine a 1-0 Lokeren victory in honesty.

With all that said, these matches all have significance (apart from PO2B) which makes the matches themselves, and the outcomes, all the more fascinating!

Posted in Matches in Brief

What’s Happening in Liege?

With the 4 matches tonight, I can’t help but look at Standard above everything. Of course there were three other matches, and we’ll get to the team from Liege, but this season frankly is a write off!

We start in PO1 though, where Gent visited Zulte Waregem, who seem to have just not turned up in the play offs. After an impressive season really they faded towards the end, but I think the cup win just ended their season. Although they have lead in some matches, they haven’t seen the result through, especially against Club Brugge. But tonight they didn’t take the lead. Japanese star Yuya Kubo of course netted 24 minutes in with an unmarked finish in the box. He really has been a fantastic signing. And with that goal, that’s how the match was about to finish, until Coulibaly popped up in the 94th minute to confirm the victory. With De Buffalo’s 5 points off of leaders Anderlecht and pulling further from Club Brugge.

In PO2A, USG were hoping to continue their fine form and get the mental edge over Mechelen tomorrow. It didn’t go to plan as Frèdèric Frans climbed highest from a Kasmi corner as Lierse took the lead. The thing is, Lierse were even, if not better than Union Saint Gilloise and midway through the second half, Manuel Benson again netted to double the lead. Things were falling apart for the Unionistes when Mohamed Elgabas rounded it up for Lierse in the last 10 minutes. But the scoring didn’t end! Gertjan Martens pulled a goal back which was too little, too late. A  deserved 3-1 win to stop the rut and tighten the group once more!

Courtesy of Getty Images

In Liege, things just weren’t right still. It’s a shame really. Firstly Kostas Laifis saw a straight red, meaning the hosts had to play with 10 men for just over an hour. From the resulting penalty however, Gillet saved from Michel! Then Reginal Goreux received a yellow which would come back to haunt him. Nil all at half time wasn’t the worst scoreline, until Finnish defender Valtteri Moren headed home and made it 1-0 to Beveren! Ten minutes before time, Goreux saw his marching orders. Nine men, 1-0 down…Wait, make that 2-0 when Zinho Gano scored yet again to pile on more misery. Great turnaround in form for Beveren with the last 2 matches now whereas Les Rouches keep falling apart.

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Lastly we have PO2B where Roeselare were looking to grab their first win. Along with that, Kortrijk were hoping to get three points to make their own season look slightly better in an average campaign. Stijn De Smet at the double scoring 10 minutes apart to cancel out Lukas van Eenoo’s opener. With that first half turnaround, the game kicked back into life where Eenoo bagged his own brace setting up a grandstand finish. Unfortunately for Roeselare, luck once again was against them, as Totovitskiy scored his second goal in 2 matches, and with that grabbed a vital winner!
Some great results and a couple of upsets in my opinion shows there’s still life in the Pro League yet! Til next time…

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Samy Kehli

With this midweek set of matches, I felt a number of players could’ve had a mention from me, but because I feel this could be their day, I’ve chosen Roeselare attacker Samy Kehli. The French/Algerian has proven he has been key to the side since joining last summer and has basically been ever present throughout this season in the second tier and in the Play Offs.

The 26 year old, plying his trade either down the centre or right wing has, as I’ve said, been vital to the successes of the club this season, as well as the downfalls, missing out in the Promotion Play Off against Antwerp recently. Wearing the number 10 shirt, it shows what Arnauld Mercier thinks of him within the starting line up as a play maker. 

Chipping in with 7 goals and 4 assists in his first season at a new club, and with it being his first real permanent transfer, I’d say his been reasonably successful, averaging a goal or assist every 1 in 3 matches. Not too shabby really, with surely next season being the one where he can really kick on. With his goals at least, he earned the club 6 points through winning goals this season.

Being able to play in a few positions up top, his versatility is useful to the side if they ever have to switch their style within the match. And he is so key to the side, missing just 4 matches this season. Luckily as well, his injury record has been impeccable which is rare nowadays.

With how the season finished for Roeselare, maybe they can be forgiven for not picking up a win so far, possibly deflated knowing they get a taste against top flight opposition, only to have to play in the ‘B’ league next term. But like earlier, if Kehli is on form, he alone with a supporting cast can kick on and get themselves promoted next season!

With Kortrijk up next, who are hot and cold match by match, or sometimes minute by minute, the hosts may take advantage of that, and at the Schiervelde Stadion, they’d like to also take advantage of familiar surroundings and grab a win, with Kehli at the forefront of things going forward. It’ll still be tough  Chevalier and Saadi up top, but as long as Roeselare capitalise up the other end, this could make for an entertaining match which could prove successful for the hosts!