With this weekend being the Croky Cup final, I thought I’d try my best to have a look at the very first one KRC Genk had under their current guise, which was twenty years ago this year! How quaint that De Smurfen have reached the cup final in their 30th anniversary season, with a manager who was involved in this memorable cup victory as a player. A huge game against Standard Liège this weekend, but there was an even bigger win back in ’98 against the champions of that season.
In fact, that season was actually pretty decent for Genk. Second in the league and were on the up, this cup win was the foundation for the success in the next season as the club were looking to create history beyond their former name. Both Genk and Club Brugge only had home matches leading up to the final, but it was clear who had the tougher run. Club Brugge were showing their superiority scoring 4, 5 and 6 in the lead up to their 3-2 aggregate win in the semi, whereas Genk were steadily progressing, beating Lierse and local rivals Sint-Truiden 3-1 going into the semi finals.
That semi final was a tough one. Tougher than the final. The two legs against Germinal Ekeren couldn’t separate either team as Genk progressed on away goals, getting a 2-2 draw. Ekeren were not only the holders but finished third in the league too, proving how difficult a draw Genk had throughout the run.
Going into the final, Club Brugge had been scintillating. Walking the league winning the title by eighteen points and were hopeful of completing the double. That’s the great thing about football, and especially cup finals. Genk came in, took their chances, and (through research) seemed to dominate. A quick fire brace by Souleymane Oulare before the half hour looked to have settled any nerves. If anything however, the most nervous player looked to be Dany Verlinden, spilling a long range effort for the opener, and not reacting quick enough to the third from Thordur Gudjonsson.
A 3-0 halftime lead in the cup final. Unbelievable! The only thing that could make it better is a fourth, which was scored by Jacky Peeters, who had half of Heysel to run into and coolly finish to settle anything there and then. A first cup win for KRC Genk, as the cups won by Waterschei Thor don’t count. For De Smurfen to win this weekend would be massive. A great turnaround in a Jekyll and Hyde season, brought about by Phillipe Clement, he’d love nothing more than to cap off his maiden season as a first team manager with a trophy. With Genk never losing a Beker van België final, it’s a good omen leading up to the game, especially with what happened with the 1999/2000 success over Standard!