Posted in Matches in Brief

Week One is Done in the JPL 

Belgium football kicked it’s season off this weekend and Sunday, as in yesterday, saw a couple of results of raise some eyebrows and make you think that this season could be an unpredictable one. The majority of the top teams haven’t picked up maximum points and the main reason is most probably rustiness, but isn’t it great that a few people down the bookies were seen to have egg on their face.

Yesterday saw two matches that looked good on paper, and one that seemed a bit of a walkover. That’s what I believed, and I’m guessing many followed suit. And a good looking fixture saw Mechelen welcome Standard Liege which was settled in the opening 10 minutes. A goal from summer signing Stefan Drazic was immediately cancelled out by the reliable Orlando Sa. It seemed a must not lose rather than a must win, as both teams eased themselves into the upcoming Pro League season.

Secondly, we saw Sint Truiden, under the management of Tintin Marquez hosted Gent who probably had both eyes on the Altach match rather than the match at the Staaien. But De Buffalos took the lead through Franko Andrijasevic six minutes before the break. Thereafter, the Charlton Athletic connection came into play. Igor Vetokele equalised before Cristian Ceballos completed the turnaround with around 20 minutes to go!

However, Gent never gave up and scored an equaliser of their own through Samuel Gigot 3 minutes later, pegging back De Kanaries! Fifteen minutes left, you’d feel the imputus and quality would be with the visitors, but with the freshness of STVV, Cristian Ceballos stole the show, as the Spaniard netted a winner just before stoppage time! Gent already pegged back and a fantastic win for Sint Truiden who have lost some real quality over the summer.

Lastly, this was the match where you felt it’d be one way traffic, and some stats proved that to be right. But with a goalless first half, Mouscron would’ve taken a draw before the match. I was speaking during the week and I haven’t given the team any hope for survival. Thankfully though, my opinion counts for nothing in Belgian football, especially on the pitch, and Congolese striker Jonathan Bolongi struck midway through the second half. And that was that. A fantastic win and already a vital one for Mouscron. Sebastien Siani saw red too as De Kustboys lost their discipline late on in a poor home defeat to open their league season.

I would’ve posted this earlier but with other things going on around me, I still felt I had to write this for Mouscron. A fine win for a team where they do show they have it when the chips are down. Just ask Westerlo. 

Posted in Matches in Brief

This is What We’ve Been Waiting For!

Belgium football has come back with a bang, and not just because of the results. Actually, that’s exactly why there’s a bang! It’s Saturday night and five matches have come and gone so far this season, with four of last season’s top six kicking us off. And I’ll get back to the curtain raiser at the end.

But we’ll kick off with quite a magnificent display of attacking play, clinical play and bounce back ability. Club Brugge travelled to the Daknamstadion where I thought this could be a banana skin for the Blauw-Zwart. But Ivan Leko gets paid to do and know more than me. Resting some key players, Dennis Bonaventure was outstanding on his Pro League debut for Club Brugge. Brandon Mechele opened the scoring though before a brace by the young Nigerian. Twenty four minutes played and 3-0. Could anything go wrong? 

Well yes. Helibelton Palacios saw a straight red just after the half hour, possibly making a game of it in the second half. But unfortunately…that didn’t happen. An own goal by Marko Miric five minutes before the hour sealed a comfortable win and proving me wrong in a couple of ways. Yes, it is only Lokeren, but these are the matches Brugge drew or lost last season and Leko has, so far, irradiated that. Also, I felt Rùnar Kristinsson would have Lokeren firing rather than stalling, but it is only the first game.

And Eupen will be saying the same. Essevee arrived at the Kehrweg Stadion and were more impressive than Brugge. A 5-0 scoreline, it goes to show that Eupen may be toothless up front this season and still haven’t dealt with how poor they can be defensively. A 5-0 defeat should be unacceptable in every way, especially at home. But a 1-0 half time lead courtesy of Davy de Fauw maybe wasn’t what you’d expect when you see the final score. 

Courtesy of Getty Images

After that, the Pandas capitulated. A Ivan Saponjic double, with a Nill De Pauw goal in between (his first competitive goal for the club) settled with a cherry on the icing of the cake by Sander Coopman settled the affair late on. Jordi Condom has a lot of work to do to Inspire rather than Aspire another Pro League bounce back from this major disappointment. Whereas Zulte Waregem need to continue this fine progress.

Then we head to the Luminus Arena, where Genk just couldn’t seem to get into gear, and Beveren struck at vital times! Olivier Myny netting just before the break, and Brazilian Zinho Gano scoring just after the break basic ruined Albert Stuivenberg’s team talk…and maybe mind?

But a fine 12 minute turnaround showed why Genk are real quality going forward. Firstly Jose Naranjo scored with 20 minutes to go! Then, the reliable Mbwana Samatta equalised ten minutes later to setup a grandstand finish! But just 2 minutes later, Siebe Scrijvers completed the turnaround superbly and set another title contender on their way! But maybe Phillipe Clement has instilled resilience into this side, and that reliable Brazilian Zinho Gano popped up in stoppage time to save a point! Another amazing game full of goals in Belgium.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Lastly on Saturday, Charleroi welcomed Kortrijk to the Stade du Pays De Charleroi. Kortrijk were very Jekyll and Hyde last term and would love some consistency this season. Although the loss of Idriss Saadi is a huge blow to De Kerels. Unlike the other matches played on Saturday night, this fixture bucked the trend as David Pollet dispatched an eleventh minute penalty to wrap up a win. End of the day it is three points, regardless of how emphatic they are gained!

Courtesy of Getty Images

On Friday night we saw the return of Antwerp to the top flight, against Champions Anderlecht! I singled out Sinan Bolat as my Player Profile, and putting in a man of the match performance, not only am I pleased with myself, I’m pleased for him, Antwerp and the league. Why the league? Because it can still have that unpredictable nature about it. A 0-0 where Les Mauves maybe should’ve taken more than a point, is what was taken from the night.

So with 16 goals in 5 matches, the football is back and raring to go. Onto Sunday!

Posted in Matches in Brief

It’s Back! The JPL is Finally Back!

Am I getting carried away? Slightly. But competitive league football in Belgique is back and I’m looking forward to it. Not saying those in Belgium aren’t of course, but I love football, England loves football and like most, those who love their club don’t mind the season ended, and then a day later the realisation of no football for 2 months kicks in.

This blog post may turn out to simply be a prediction post and I’ll end up saying how many results (rather than score lines) I managed to get right out of 10. Not all Belgian football is that predictable so I’ll definitely get a few, if not all incorrect!

But kicking off tonight sees the return of the oldest club in Belgium vs the most successful club, and current Pro League champions. I’ve written a PP about Sinat Bolat because it could be a tough one for him tonight with potentially the most devastating strike force in Belgium.

Tomorrow sees four matches that may look quite straightforward. In my honest opinion, I do see Zulte Waregem, Genk and Charleroi taking maximum points in their matches, maybe with Eupen vs Zulte being the most competitive. But Lokeren vs Club Brugge at the Daknamstadion could be a corker. Most likely a dull 0-0 will happen, but I don’t think Blauw-Zwart will win in all honesty. Could be the coupon buster!?!

On Sunday, this includes the Europa League sides, with Gent travelling to Sint Truiden and Oostende hosting Mouscron. Sorry, but I believe De Kustboys could just rip Mouscron apart if I’m honest. There’s a lot they can take away from the Marseille defeat. Gent travel to the Staaien disappointed from the draw against Altach, and I feel this could be tougher for De Buffalos.

Lastly, before all those matches on Sunday, possibly the game of the weekend involves Mechelen vs Standard Liege. I reckon Les Rouches could turn up and convincingly win on Sunday on Ricardo Sa Pinto’s first competitive match in charge, but Mats Rits does enjoy playing against Standard.

These are mainly predictions, along with my thoughts of certain…things? My mind’s gone totally blank. It’s the sun! Nevertheless, could be a cracking weekend of football in Belgium and it all starts tonight! 

Posted in Player Profile

Player Profile: Sinan Bolat

Back with a bang, the Pro League is back and the action can’t come quicker or faster at you, especially if your name is Sinan Bolat. The Turk has come back to Belgium out of the football wilderness where he has had more clubs than Jack Nicklaus and hasn’t settled since moving to FC Porto from Standard Liege 4 years ago.

Now…the problem is that he is a goalkeeper. No, that isn’t the actual problem. The problem is that there is only one position to fill when you’re a goalkeeper. I’m gambling on Bolat actually starting in the match to find out which Champion is better? The Division B champions who haven’t played a competitive match in months! Or Anderlecht. No introduction. Just simply Anderlecht. 

With no actual form to go off of, match rustiness could possibly be a factor. It’ll be a factor for both sides of course, but Bolat had a season to forget pulling on the gloves for half a season last term for Arouca in Portugal, on loan from Porto, and well, it wasn’t his fault that the team faultered frankly. The weird thing is, I honestly believed this match would happen. First match of the season. Royal Antwerp vs Anderlecht. I don’t know why, I just thought it wouldn’t shock me. The fixture list throws up all sorts of fixtures but I honestly thought this would happen.

Courtesy of Getty Images

I’ll look stupid (which isn’t difficult) if Bolat doesn’t start. But with his top flight experience in Belgium, hopefully the Great Old will call upon his experience in the Pro League to not only help them out tonight, but for the season too, and aid in the development of the squad. To those who don’t know the league.

I’ll leave you all with the thought of Onyekuru, Teodorczyk, Stanciu and Ganvoula M’Boussy tearing down on goal. Good luck!

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Not The Best of Evenings…

Before tonight’s matches involving Oostende and Gent, I predicted certainly one win and hopefully a positive result in the South of France. My run of predictions at the start of this season hasn’t gone as well as thought. 

Beginning at Ghelamco Arena. Gent faced Altach and I truly believed it would be one way traffic. I wouldn’t even put it down to naivety. The Pro League is just vastly better than the Austrian Bundesliga in my opinion, and I think most of Europe would concur. Red Bull Salzburg have dominated Austrian football and still never participate in the Champions League, which isn’t something to really go by, but it’s not a positive.

So when Altach arrived, maybe Gent’s problem is that they were too confident? I don’t know. But a full strength Gent side were pegged back after just five minutes. That hit the Buffalos hard as it did take a second half substitute to save the day. Kalifa Coulibaly struck on the 76th minute to at least take a draw to Austria. Considering the time of the goal, Gent just couldn’t grab a winner and Altach go back the more satisfied.

In Marseille, a daunting task laid ahead for Oostende and to be honest, they performed so well. A 4-2 defeat, and most likely, elimination faces De Kustboys, but a battling perform against possibly one of the favourites out of all qualifiers to progress was always going to be challenging. Also…Valere Germain was in inspired form which doesn’t help.

Scoring a hat trick, starting in the 2nd minute, and rounding it off on the 82nd minute, he hit the killer blows just at the right time. Firstly, to stifle Oostende, and secondly, to dampen any hopes of a revival at the Versluys. Sebastien Siani and Knowledge Musona hit the goals which do keep Oostende in the tie, but the likelihood of progression does look bleak.

All in all, not a vintage week for Belgian football in Europe. The chances of all three qualifying look extremely slim, but hopefully my streak of incorrect predictions can carry on!

Posted in Pro League in Europe

Belgium in Europe

A bit late, mainly because I was in transit and…I’m on holiday. I have been away before and blogged about Belgium, and, funnily enough, that was whilst Belgian teams were in Europe. This time though, instead of being in a fairly chilly Berlin, I am in scorching hot Paphos! 

All of that is irrelevant to an actual Belgian football blog. I’m clearly padding out a post which is simply about three Belgian teams in Europe. One from last night and the other 2 for tonight, which are yet to commence. And if the 2 playing tonight are as good, entertainment wise, rather than the result, then it could be a fantastic night!

Club Brugge dominated and then through away a result in style against Istanbul Basaksehir at the Jan Breydel Stadion. After new signing Bonaventure put the Blauw-Zwart ahead early, things were looking good in Ivan Leko’s first competitive match. Stefano Denswil made it even better, taking Club Brugge into half time with a 2-0 lead!

Then the Turks could’ve ruined the night…well let’s face it…they did. A 2-0 lead with 45 minutes to go was turned around in the space of 30 minutes. The second goal from Basaksehir once promising Dutch winger Eljero Elia, was something special. If it wasn’t him it was Marcio Mossaro. Either way it was a strike! But when Denswil… theres a way (get it?) meaning the defender saved a draw from defeat withnanother direct free kick. 

It’s nothing to do with Ivan Leko and Brugge’s failure in the Champions League. They just can’t perform in the competition, just like last season, and tell Manchester United fans. It’s a shame but with an uphill task in Istanbul, it’s unlikely there’ll be two Belgian teams in the Champions League this season in my opinion.

Tonight sees Oostende make their own history travelling to Marseille. This will be tough. The Velodrome is always fiery and Oostende are total novices in Europe. Their hope is a decent result tonight with at worst a goal deficit to take back to the Versluys Arena. Gent play Austrians Altach at the Ghelamco Arena. Unlike De Kustboys, I see the Buffalos progressing overall and taking a nice lead away with them. 

Bit of a brief round up compared to a six goal thriller from last night, but all I hope is positive results for Belgian clubs abroad, unless it against my team!

Posted in Back in Time

Back in Time: Francis Severeyns

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.

I should really put this down as a club thing. Clubs who have done extremely well in the past whether it be in the cup, or Europe, or league. But…this time, I have decided to pick a player. I came across a player who most clubs in the Pro League will know as well European clubs and lower league clubs. Francis Severeyns!

To continually write about Club Brugge and Anderlecht is, no offence, dull. It’s full to whoever may read my blog on a regular basis (if anyone does) and it’s dull for me. It’s the equivalent of constantly writing about Liverpool and Manchester United. But I digress. Francis Severeyns, also known as Cisse, came through the ranks at Royal Antwerp in 1984, signed originally from Westmalle as a youngster. Primarily, I’ve written about Cisse because I thought I’d kick of my Back in Time with a 7/8 finish in the year, but stumbled across a goalscorer, who, was always the bridesmaid and never the bride.

Courtesy of Getty Images

In a generation full of top Belgian strikers, Francis Severeyns managed to play for the Red Devils 7 times and managed to bag a goal in the process. Taking that into the clubs he played for, he did have a decent goalscoring record. In his first spell at Antwerp, his best personal performance was a goal haul of 24 goals when the Great Old finished 3rd in the 1987/88 season, striking up a good partnership Marc Van Den Linden. That season helped the club qualify for the UEFA Cup.

With his impress start to his career, his major disappointment followed where Serie A came calling. Possibly the league to join in the 80s and 90s which is a huge compliment. Unfortunately, the Italian Job ended horrendously, with Pisa finishing second bottom, and, going by my research, no goals were scored by Severeyns. Where does he go from there? Well, he was a lucky boy, to an extent, when Mechelen signed him! Yes! The Belgian Champions sent him a huge lifeline.

After that, De Kakkers did well, finishing 3rd, 2nd and 4th in Severeyns three seasons, trying to build a relationship with John Bosman. Those finishes meant the Cisse always had European football. After his mini spell there, which was reasonably good at a club level, scoring nearly a goal every 3 matches, he rejoined Antwerp. In some ways, coming home.

Again, this is where the bridesmaid comment comes in, as they’d won the Beker van Belgie the year before he joined. Meaning clubs had success the year before he joined! But that first season the club reached the Cup Winners Cup final, losing out to an impressive Parma team. Francis Severeyns even managed a goal in that final before the Italians won 3-1! Domestically, Severeyns managed 19 goals (joint 5th) and sparked up a good relationship with Alexandre Czerniatynski (I quadruple checked that). The club began a descend down the table, actually finishing just outside the relegation places in the 1994/95 season, until picking themselves up the season he left, finishing 6th, ensuring an Intertoto Cup place.

But the now experienced Belgian moved to Austria with Tirol Innsbruck. An average season all in all where the club finished 6th, which is mid table in the Austrian Bundesliga, and the club also went out of Europe early to Celtic. This was to be his final stint abroad as he returned to Belgium in the form of Germinal Beerschot. 

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Three seasons with the historic club were followed by his last season in top flight at Westerlo in 2001/02. Thereafter, he played football for the love of football, playing in the Belgian lower leagues, before return to his home club KV Westmalle, where he is now the manager. 

This is unique in that I don’t often write about former players of yesteryear, but a player who had the courage to play abroad is one thing, along with being at clubs in a successful era in their history, without actually winning a medal of his own. A fantastic career with I’m sure many stories, with no silverware to boast for it! I wonder if the second coming in the form of management will happen for Francis Severeyns?

Posted in Uncategorized

Talking for the Sake of It

I felt that I rather wanted to write tonight rather than need to. Football isn’t how it used to be for me. And it’s echoed by everyone, well, most here in England. Football is money money money! When you see Manchester City spend £200 million this summer already and majority of that on full backs, one of whom hasn’t even got a plethora of international caps, it makes you wonder when will the bubble burst?

I shouldn’t compare the Pro League with the Premier League I know. When I went to Lokeren, the press officer did say ‘whatever you do, dont make comparisons with the Premier League‘ when I arrived at the Daknamstadion. I didn’t. I did however compare it to lower league clubs in England, where the club I’m most local to, a League 1 side, has the same capacity as Lokeren, and they’re nowhere near the biggest club in League 1. 

Watching the Pro League has made me realise that football is beyond the money. The only problem however is the lack of support at some matches. You do have fantastic stadia in Belgium, with fantastic support. But some clubs are let down by their fans when the matches aren’t sold out. Okay, the population of the country is a third of what it is here AND football is a religion in England. It’s also a fad to some people where it has now become ‘trendy’ to associate yourself with a football club. With the Pro League though, I’ve dived in two footed and when my mum, who I do go to football with, asks me about certain things in the Premier League, I tend to know about what’s currently happening in Belgium, amongst the broken French I know and Dutch that I definitely don’t know looking at the news!

But less of that and more of this. My opinion (which may count for nothing to some people) and I think that, and wait for it, Anderlecht will win the league again. There I’ve said it. If anyone asks me, and nobody actually does because England doesn’t particular take notice of any leagues other than their own, I look at Les Mauves and just see quality. Losing one player basically and having the depth to fight in league and cup. Of course the players aren’t going to be content with being squad players, like Hamdi Harbaoui and Diego Capel who’ll want regular football. Maybe the obvious reason for why Franck Acheampong left?

But when I look at other teams I actually feel Standard Liege could be the closest contenders. New manager. Fresh ideas. Good recruitment. No European football. It looks good. Their first few matches is a real acid test as the opposition are very good in the opening 8 matches. The only reason I put them ahead of Club Brugge, Gent, Genk and Zulte Waregem is because they all have European football (apart from Genk) and that could make or break their season. Brugge out of the Champions League early on could put a dampener on the season early on. Gent haven’t brought in enough in my opinion. Genk as well haven’t recruited enough and Zulte Waregem have personally brought quality in, but juggling the Europa League with the Pro League may be tough?

I know I’ve left out Charleroi and Oostende but I think the 5 I have already mentioned could be within the Championship Play Off come March. Lokeren could be the 6th team with their solid signings, and Rùnar Kristinsson has assessed the league now and could surprise some this coming season. I maybe totally wrong, and the likelihood that I am could be high. These are just predictions which I may reel out from time to time! But who knows in Belgium? Over the course of recent history, Anderlecht have dominated with a spluttering of teams who look promising like Gent, Genk, Club Brugge and Standard. René Weiler just seems too focussed when it gets down to it and uses his squad well.

Posted in Uncategorized

Who Will Keep the Cleanest Sheet?

Last Friday, I decided to discuss, with nobody, who would be potent the strongest in attack as a team and individually. Looking at each team’s attack, it’ll look likely that Anderlecht could well be the strongest along with Club Brugge. The same could be said between the sticks with Frank Boeckx and either Ludovic Butelle, Ethan Horvath and Guillaume Hubert. The reason why I’ve picked all 3 possibilities is because Butelle of course was ever present until Horvath came in during the Play Offs and performed superbly. Hubert is a new signing from Standard and probably didn’t sign to sit on the bench.

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But along with those 4, much like the strikers, there are more than capable goalkeepers who could follow Courtois and Mignolet to pastures new. But not all goalkeepers are the reason for keeping clean sheets. The defence in front of them tends to be as I because they prevent shots, crosses and headers coming in on the goalkeeper. In England, Arsenal had a great goalkeeper in David Seaman in the past and Petr Cech at Chelsea have kept records for goals not conceded in a season. One thing in common, they had fantastic defenders in front of them.

That goes for now as well. For example, Hendrik Van Crombrugge is a very good goalkeeper in my opinion, but unfortunately, and Diawandou Diagne agreed, defensively Eupen are just not good at all. Will Genk perform as well without Mathew Ryan this coming season? Mouscron have the same problem with Logan Bailly being their only goalkeeper, apparently, and Lokeren will need to replace Copa Barry too. 

Goalkeepers are the toughest position to replace or look after as it’s the costliest position. Nicolas Penneteau and Colin Coosemans had extremely good seasons individually last term keeping 25 clean sheets in the league combined. Hopefully they’ll be able to replicate that form this season, which will be tough! Along with them, we will get to see a full season out of Lovre Kalinic at Gent and a favourite of mine who somehow never fully hit the heights, Guillermo Ochoa. The Mexican who signed recently for Standard Liege could help the team progress better than last season. I remember writing a piece where if the team who scored first went on to win the match, Standard Liege would’ve actually finished top! So clean sheets are a major issue for Les Rouches, along with seeing out matches.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Within this post I’ve purposely named goalkeepers as they are the most underrated position in my opinion, along with full backs in football. They are the players who receive specialist coaching and equipment and can win you as many points as a striker or attacking midfielder. They deserve a huge amount of credit and mentions! There is a list of real quality keepers within the Belgian Pro League who may, unfortunately, not see out the season or may be bought come next summer. As long as that doesn’t disrupt teams too much, which it most probably will, then we could see some real quality performances!

Posted in Uncategorized

The Taureau d’Or Race is on! 

Well…not quite just…anyway, to the blog post at hand. Belgium has a mix of quality strikers for the league and across Europe. There is a trifecta of strikers at the top clubs and with a full season for some of them, if they remain injury free, this could be a close one! 

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However, Anderlecht hold the upper hand when it comes to goalscorers currently in the Pro League. The pairing of Henry Onyekuru and Lukasz Teodorczyk up front could be deadly. Forty four goals in the league between them last season is nerve wracking for any defence this coming season.

Then you have Jelle Vossen, Jeremy Perbet and Wesley at Club Brugge who’ll be looking to get amongst the goals. The signing of Perbet could be the difference between top and second this season for BlauwZwart. The problem for the chasing pack is that Gent, Charleroi, Oostende and Zulte Waregem have lost attackers, or in the case of ESSEVEE, haven’t exactly strengthened in that department in comparison to the others.

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Standard Liege have managed to keep hold of Orlando Sa and Ishak Belfodil so far which is fantastic for Les Rouches in their own bid for the title, or at least European football. And along with holding onto players, Mbwana Samatta has stayed at Genk which is a big boost too.

Other contenders include Teddy Chevalier, which looks unlikely, and Eric Ocansey will have to step up to the plate for Eupen. You also have Igor Vetokele at STVV! The only other possibility right now could be Zinho Gano at Beveren, but his inconsistency could go against him. There’s a clutch of top strikers at each club so goals could be on the agenda this season, but one club in particular is hoarding them.

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To sign off, let’s not forget Lokeren as a club who have an insurmountable amount of strikers. I’ve counted 11 strikers at the club. I may be wrong but they have the chance to field a starting line up of strikers.