Again in Belgium, a gluttony of goals has proved to be the case, with real quality on show this round, and with some results, it proves how unpredictable football can be, especially if you were a gambler!
Friday night saw a top clash at the Regenboogstadion. Zulte Waregem hosted Anderlecht in a tight match in PO1. Anderlecht took the lead through a good turn and shot from Romanian Alexandru Chipciu in the first half. Zulte pulled one back through persistent crossing from Mbaye Leye until Henrik Dalsgaard final knocked it in. Anderlecht finally sealed the win 18 minutes from time through playmaker Youri Tielemans. An assist and goal to his name Friday night showed how vital the youngster really is.
Saturday kicked us off with Charleroi vs Oostende. With a goalless first half full of chances, including my player profile Hamdi Harbaoui hitting the bar and post, it was Oostende who broke the deadlock through Knowledge Musona, latching onto a tackle in midfield that broke his way. With time ticking, both teams created chances until Clinton Mata equalised with a fine free kick. The only thing this result has done is lift both teams above Gent.
In PO2A, it was the home teams who frankly dismantled the visitors in both matches Saturday. I have to start with Union Saint Gilloise who really embarrassed me and Mechelen, and deservedly so. Set pieces were the Pro League sides undoing with 2 first half free kicks helping the second tier side. With the first goal scrambled in by Mombongo-Dues and the second, a header looping over Coosemans by Vandiepenbeeck, Le Unionistes took control. With a penalty early in the second half, the game was over. Nicolas Rajsel dispatched the spot kick and claimed a deserved goal to add to his 2 assists.
The other game in this group was settled by Sint Truiden in the second half. With another even-ish first period, goals from Stef Peeters, and then 2 in the last ten minutes from Roman Bezus and a penalty from Pieter Gerkins settled another 3-0 win in this group where De Kanaries dominated the second half.
All PO2B matches were contested Saturday evening beginning with Kortrijk getting revenge over Mouscron from the last match of the regular season. However, they had to do it the hard way, as Mouscron took the lead through Vojvoda. That must‘ve stirred something up within the home side as they managed an equaliser 2 minutes into first half stoppage time through Mercier, giving De Kerels a second half imputus. It did take until the last 10 minutes until Mouscron’s resistance wore thin when defender Tomislav Barbaric stole the win.
Eupen kicked off simultaneously against Roeselare where, again, I was shown up, as the away side took an early 2-0 lead away at the top flight side. Kehli broke the deadlock in the 11th minute, until a superb touch and finish by Raphael Lecomte made it 2-0 just before the half hour. Enter Henry Onyekuru! The young Nigerian took matters into his own hands, scoring through a one on one 8 minutes into the second half, and then tapping home from six yards out with 15 minutes to go saving Eupen’s blushes. With plenty of time for either side to snatch a winner, neither team could grab all 3 points in the end.
The final match on Saturday was, finally, a result I predicted well and 3 players I mentioned all stepped up. Genk totally bossed Lokeren throughout, although it did take until first half stoppage time for De Smurfen to score their first goal. Alejandro Pozuelo with a measured finish just outside the box. It then took around 25 second half minutes til Genk iced the cake, with goals through Samatta, Boetius and Naranjo sealed the win. I’m sure Genk will progress to the overall European play off.
Sunday was a big day, as the game of the weekend in my opinion, Gent vs Club Brugge, started us off. And it was a great start for the reigning champions, as Wesley scored after just 8 minutes. A cross out wide was firstly headed on to the post by the young Brazilian, before an untidy finish was put away. Gent showed great character as it turned into the Moses Simon show. To begin with he scored a great volley from a deep cross from Samuel Kalu, and then he stuck away a penalty just before half time. Brugge were handed a lifeline as William Troost-Ekong saw 2 quick yellows early into the second half, but the away side couldn’t capitalise on their man advantage, now giving Anderlecht the advantage in the title race.
The last match of the weekend featured Lierse and Standard Liege. Lierse have had just an awful run against Liege this millennium, so the odds were stacked against the hosts, but a lot like this weekend, that didn’t seem to matter as a Manuel Benson goal settled the match in the 17th mimute against a strong Standard side. This puts an early dent in Liege’s play off hopes, but there’s still a way to go.
In the end the second tier sides have definitely come to play which is fantastic, whereas other than the PO1 sides, the Pro League sides who may feel out of contention for Europe may be looking at squad players for next season. Anderlecht may prove me right from my blog post the other day about who may win the title. They win home and away and seem extremely focussed for the run in this season. As long as the Europa League doesn’t hinder their focus, I feel this may be their season, with maybe Gent proving to be their nearest competition!