Posted in Matches in Brief

UEL Showdown! KV Oostende vs KRC Genk

Once again, not one of my finest titles for a blog post, but I’ll recover…one day! Anyway, to the business at hand. Genk travel all the way East to the Belgian coast to play Oostende who’ll hope a win may not only salvage their season of some disappointments, but maybe improve the smiles on fans faces. 

De Kustboys have all in all been very good this season. Finishing 4th in the play offs and finishing in the top 6 altogether is a fantastic achievement, especially with teams like Genk and Standard Liege finishing outside the top 6. And with the disappointment of losing on penalties to Zulte Waregem in the Croky Cup final, they’ll hope this final will go their way, especially as it’s at the Versluys Arena.

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But Genk have been steamrolling all those in front of them. Their only disappointment over the past 3 months was their​ elimination from the Europa League to Celta Vigo. I’ve actually been quite bored talking up Racing this year when it comes to their league form as they have been unbelievably impressive. Their play off group in comparison to Oostende, well, there’s no comparison as it was so easy, but then again, would Oostende have destroyed all those in front of them just like Genk did?

Saturday was probably Genk’s toughest test since the regular season, with De Limburg​ derby against Sint Truiden, which yet again, they eased to a 3-0 home win. But Genk have been so good they are joint top on points won this calendar year in the regular season with champions Anderlecht. What if they had that form from July-December it may be ‘Champions Genk’? 

With tonight’s opponents however, Genk haven’t won away at Oostende since 2004. De Kustboys were a different team completely then, not just because it’s thirteen years later, but in terms of stature and setup too. Oostende battered Genk 6-0 last time they met in the league, and Oostende also defeated Genk in the semi final of the cup this season too, which could prove a good omen for the hosts, even though De Smurfen just seem impregnable right now in every situation.

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The thing which may hinder chances for Oostende is that Nany Dimata could be out injured for the match. The youngster has been superb and won the best young player of the season. Along with him missing, the team haven’t played for 9 days, with their last match being away at Anderlecht in a 3-2 defeat. They’ve had to stew on that for a while with no opportunities to bounce back. But the rest may have been needed in the build up to a match which may make this season an historic one!

A long season in Belgium with nearly a full year of football is no good for players in my opinion as quality and enthusiasm may drop. But with it leading up to this match for these two, one more push is all that is needed to play in Europe’s second competition, and with this season, it shows that the possibility of success could happen with the luck of the draw!

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Genk Control De Limburg Derby!

Before the match I wrote a piece that hopefully made the match, on paper, look a whole lot more competitive than it’d be on grass. But unfortunately for Sint Truiden, football isn’t played on paper, and along with that, Genk played De Kanaries off the pitch!

I was at my own huge game yesterday where the best team won, and across to North West Belgium, the​ best team also won. I really did believe a fight, in a good way, would be put up by the visitors, but Genk’s superiority really shined through. Lucas Pirard was rushed off his feet to be honest and his gloves were more than warm. After a short drinks break, the breakthrough finally happened, in what looked like the simplest fashion with a tap in from Thomas Buffel 6 yards out. Ten minutes later, Jean-Paul Boetius switched from provider to scorer. After a free flowing move, he swept home a finish, once again unmarked.

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Albert Stuivenberg’s team were just a class above and Mbwana Samatta sealed the win on the 55th minute looping the ball over the hapless keeper, once again unchallenged. Only resorting STVV to half chances, the scoreline flattered Sint Truiden who after such a fantastic play offs, deserved more in the end, and their fans certainly did. Genk just have the upper hand right now in Limburg and along with that, showed why they could just be better suited to the Europa League. The only question I want to ask is how did they finish 8th in the regular season?

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But onto Wednesday, a huge game will take place on the coast at Oostende, where rest may be crucial to Oostende in the end, but with a red hot Genk right now, I wouldn’t want to guess a potential score! 

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De Limburg Derby Day!

In Belgium, it’s unofficial cup final day! Well, not totally because the prize after this is just to play Oostende. That’s the real ‘final’. But tonight, Genk host Sint Truiden where the whole Provence will be glued to the outcome of these two rivals. 

Genk hold the upper hand. They have players who have played in big matches, they’re at home, they cruised to top in PO2B, meaning they had the luxury to rest players and they’re at home. Some may say they’d prefer them in the Europa League come next season due to their fine performance this season. 

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But I think one thing goes against them. STVV have been switched on throughout the entire play offs, playing against arguably tough opposition and have players right on form in Gerkens, Vetokele and Ceballos. All 3 have been outstanding, with the other 8 around them like Stef Peeters and maybe even an in form Kurt Abrahams might be the match winner. 

With all those who could stand out, of course Genk have real quality of their own, from Mathew Ryan in goal, through to Samatta up top, with Trossard and Scrijvers and Pozuelo andyou catch my drift. Not only is this a fantastic match, if the Luminus Arena really does light up, there could be fireworks and maybe even an upset. This is the one off of all one off matches in a derby situation! The cream always rises to the top, but matches in Belgium aren’t always settled by moments of real quality. One loose ball ceased upon, one slip in defence or one costly missed chance could be the deal breaker in what I feel will be a tight affair compared to say…the 3-0 away win from Genk a few months ago. Not only was real quality on show, but a quick fire treble sealed the win for De Smurfen just before half time.

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That of course could be replicated, but I think De Kanaries have strengthened mentally since then and may spring a surprise if they’re as battle hardened as they have been, demolishing Mechelen last time out and romping to the top of PO2A! I just think, even if this wasn’t a derby, It’d still be a fantastic match due to their form going into the match. Goals have to be scored tonight regardless, but I wouldn’t be surprised if goals are guaranteed by both in the fight for Europe, or at least, the next phase in their quest! 

Exciting!!!

Posted in Matches in Brief

As The Curtain Closes on PO1…

We see that nothing changed positionally on the last day. A couple of things could’ve occured if Gent and Charleroi were to snatch wins away. Five of the six teams can now assess their season, go off and as footballers tend to say, come back fitter and stronger and work on blah blah blah, even though I’m sure the vast majority come back just as good, or to honest fans, come back just as disappointing!

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But alas, Anderlecht were of course crowned champions and hosted Oostende in a match that watching from a far, looked more like a testimonial. The game ended 3-2 to the champions where I felt the best goal was the David Rozenhal bullet header of an own goal. I’m sure Lukasz Teodorczyk was even proud of that one. For me though, Les Mauves are by far and away the worthy winners of the Pro League this season, not just because they climbed to the top, but because they performed so well throughout the regular season and the play offs. The cream does always rise to the top.

With Oostende unable to take a point, Charleroi could’ve overtaken them into the Europa League play off place with a win away at hapless Zulte Waregem, who, and I’ve said this since the first play off match I think, gave up on the season after the cup, plus, their record against the 5 above them is atrocious. Cristian Benavente put the visitors 2-0 up at half time and made it look like Zulte Waregem were going to finish on a whimper, until Henrik Dalsgaard halves the deficit, before assisting Mühren 5 minutes from time. Dalsgaard, Im sure is off to Genk next season and signed off his play offs with a fine second half display. He has been possibly the only shining light on a dark play off campaign for Waregem. Les Zèbres on the other hand miss out on European football altogether unfortunately. They have performed very well all season but fall just short of the play off for Europe.

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Lastly it was the game of the weekend where Club Brugge hosted Gent in a match that would determine who’d get the Champions League qualifying place for next season. Gent needed a win. Nothing less would do in a tough match in which Club Brugge knew they couldn’t give less than 100%. When Wesley, who like Dalsgaard previously, has had a fantastic play off campaign individually put the hosts in front at half time. Hans Vanaken smashed a low drive into the bottom corner in the second half to seal a win and wrap up second. Kenny Saief did pull back a goal with 20 minutes still to play, making it nervy for Brugge, but to score another 2 would’ve been miraculous really, and Brugge held on to the win.

Overall the play offs weren’t vintage as Anderlecht looked in control from the start and those around them did just drop too many points, either against each other or draws came into play too.

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Champions League Play Off Anyone…

With Anderlecht winning the title, or Club Brugge losing it, depending on how you want to put your spin on it, Belgium have their league champions as of Thursday night as Anderlecht fought back to defeat Charleroi, although Brugge’s defeat meant any result would suffice.

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But because of that defeat, and Gent’s outstanding performance against Zulte Waregem, today’s match between 2nd vs 3rd at the Jan Breydel Stadion is a Champions League play off! One point separate the two heading into the match, and with Gent’s form, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sneak into second by this afternoon. Looking at form within these play offs, Gent have been second in terms of points won, whereas Brugge are level with Oostende! And at one ponts I thought Oostende were quite dreadful. 

With those points to games, there’s no surprise that Gent have snuck up, and at one point, they were contenders to Anderlecht, and also, shows how average Club Brugge have been too. They’ve just looked out of sorts to me and I’m going to look back at my post from when I said that Anderlecht would win the league, mainly due to the inability of teams around them to take initiative. 

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Other than that massive fixture due to the consequences of the outcome, the other 2 are just fillers. True, Charleroi could overtake Oostende and get a Europa League play off against either Genk or Sint Truiden, but maybe Zulte Waregem will turn up for once and Oostende may hope Les Mauves partied just a little too much since Thursday and upset the coronation at the Constant Vanden Stock? 

Overall, I think Genk deserve the Europa League place and will represent the league a bit better than the alternatives. People may not like that but it’s simply an opinion. But until they play Sint Truiden who have been brilliant, either De Kustboys or Les Zèbres will lie in wake depending on this afternoon’s result.

All I know is that I’ll miss writing about league matches, the connotations of results and the quality shown in those matches as well. The twist and turns, the upsets and the routs. I won’t lie, some matches have just looked on the surface as dead rubbers, but when it ends 4-4 or 5-3, you realise that attacking wise there are some real quality players with creativity and drive, as well as absolutely inept defending, organisation and sometimes, woeful goalkeeping.

I’ll post my opinion on today’s matches tomorrow morning and will write little posts throughout the summer, but all I know is that I can’t wait already for who’ll come in, who’ll surprise and which team will push the champions all the way again!

Posted in Matches in Brief

Magnificent Seven as De Kanaries Soar!

Wow! What a performance by Sint Truiden! They had already done the hard work in the previous 9 matches beforehand, but they have absolutely destroyed Mechelen at the Staaien, including an 18 minutes hat trick by Kurt Abrahams in the second half! Mechelen have let themselves down unfortunately from my point of view, and most certainly from their own view as well.

Another team who let themselves down are Standard Liege too, although they’ve gotten away with it for me as they’ve finish well, winning 2-0 at home against Lierse. Finishing 3rd looks a hell of a lot respectable than where they started, gaining just 2 points in their first 4 games I think. Their season summed up has been average. Simply average with the play offs being their saviour, but the players underperformed, but things did at least look more positive than in March! 

Lierse battled well throughout their matches and to be honest, not particularly performing will give the club a chance to assess where they are and how they can improve to get a real promotion push going next season.

Finally, Beveren won to give their season a small lift away at Union Saint Gilloise. Two teams who’ll hope to just improve on this season somehow, and with USG, I feel keeping hold of maybe Rajsel and Aoulad will be priority surely

This group has been the most entertaining to write about by a long stretch as it was anybody’s until matchday 7/8. Sint Truiden have deserved their chance against Genk, and with a tougher group, they may be a bit sharper than De Smurfen but Genk do have real quality and have had the luxury of resting players! 

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It’s Trui-Den That They Have Genk!

I’m trying to be playful with my titles if you haven’t noticed? Trui-Den = True Then…get it? Anyway, Sint Truiden and an inspired Igor Vetokele have a chance of being one of the representatives from Belgium in Europe next season. 

The Charlton Athletic loanee has been either extremely quiet, or injured to be fair, and I wanted to make him one of my PP’s this year, except he only ever seemed to turn up at home. However, the past 2 matches have seen him score 4 in 2 away from the Staaien and round off a fine PO2A for Truiden. Manuel Benson has been a shining beacon for Lierse but his opener in the first half seemed to be the only bright spark tonight. Cristian Ceballos who has also been outstanding seems to be clicking with the big striker, made it 3-1 on the night!

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Mechelen, who technically can still top the group with an absolute rout on the last day did all they could do, winning in the only way they can in these play offs. Their fourth 1-0 victory just hasn’t been enough. With their real quality they should see teams off in a more stylish fashion, and when they’ve lost they’ve lost well, making their goal difference as -2 so far. Just not enough for the team I thought could’ve and probably should’ve been in the title winning group rather than part of the 12 outside. By the way, they hosted USG in case you were wondering. Noticed after proof reading I glossed over them completely!

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Standard Liege carried on their fine form picking up yet another win, this time away at Beveren. Another 3-1 scoreline on the night and the second match in a row won by a 2 goal margin, without Sa and Belfodil has shown real togetherness, rather than relying on the quality two up front. It’s a shame Les Rouches have come to the party late, but their dreadful start has seen yet another favourite fall by the wayside.

Friday sees the end of the season for 5 of these team, most likely all but STVV who have been in and around the business end, deserving their chance against Genk!

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Sint Truiden Could Seal PO2A

After all this time, there I was think Mechelen have wrapped up the group. Many in PO2A have thought about playing in Europe next season, including Union Saint Gilloise, but STVV have really just decided they will.

Top with 2 matches to play, they’re away to Lierse, knowing probably just a win will do. 10 goals ahead of Mechelen right now and 3 points, their goal difference seems insurmountable. The other reason I think Sint Truiden will now progress, that’s if they win, is because Mechelen travel to the Staaien on the last matchday, not only knowing they’ll need a win if they, at worst, copy Sint Truiden’s result, but will need to win at least 6-0 at that.

Talking of Mechelen, they host USG, who have slipped themselves in these play offs. To be honest, going back to the first match week when I thought it’d be embarrassing for the second tier side throughout, I’ve been made to eat humble pie by them and they’ve performed remarkably well, regardless of their recent slump. The first !arch week also ended 3-0 to the Unionistes against Mechelen as well, so the host will not only want to over turn that, but keep on the pressure going into the last match.

Finally, Beveren play a Standard Liege side who, if the play offs started on Friday, they’d have some sort of form going into the last 9 matches. As this is the 9th match tonight, they’ll just have to play for pride against a Beveren side, who also at one point, battled Standard for who’s the worst in this group? Beveren kicked into gear quicker, but again all too late really, and have been impressive as of late, knowing that this is just one of those matches you play when the beach is calling louder than the pitch!

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The End is Near!

With one week and two matchdays left for each team, the title could’ve been decided yesterday. The top 2 in Belgium played in Bruges, where Club Brugge hosted Anderlecht in the crunchiest of matches. This isn’t how I usually start any of my mini, tiniest of match reports I write for each match for certain reasons, but in a way, the title was decided today.

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Sofiane Hanni set the ball rolling and I put myself in an Anderlecht fans position for a moment, thinking the big man. The man who is just outstanding and calm may have just won the 34th title for Anderlecht in the first half. As blunt as it sounds, my Player Profile Ruud Vormer postponed the party for at least a couple of days and it ended 1-1.

Anderlecht may have to wait til Thursday, but I feel it’s inevitable they’ll win it sooner rather than later! However, Charleroi on Thursday are the only side to beat Anderlecht in the play offs this season and could spoil the party, AND create a huge amount of tension next Sunday. Speaking of Charleroi, they took a fantastic point back home from the Ghelamco Arena, although it could’ve been more. Les Zèbres had to do it the hard way with a 24th minute red card for Tainmont. But Charleroi took the lead!

Enes Saglik netted 4 minutes after they went down to 10 men. But due to their lack of discipline, a penalty from Yuya Kubo took booth teams in at the break at 1-1, the same score the game ended with. A very late red card for Gent as well for Louis Verstraete proved Gent haven’t been at it recently and have slightly slipped, but look likely to be in the Europa League next season.

Fifth vs Sixth took place on Saturday where Zulte Waregem again beat Oostende as they did in the Croky Cup. Kaya, Hamalainen and Mbaye Leye scored 3 first half goals for the hosts with a Marusic equaliser sandwiched in between settled the match Saturday night. I’ve said for a while SVZW have written off these play offs really, whereas Oostende could still play a Europa League play off themselves if they get positive results in their final 2 matches of the season.

Play Off 1 for me was only competitive because Anderlecht became complacent, even for a week, which let Brugge back in. The title never looked out of their grasp, and I may still eat my words, but a positive for !e is that I said how the top 6 should end up 7 weeks ago, and other than Gent and Charleroi needing to switch, I’ve been spot on and I have the blog post and the picture to prove it!

Play Off 2B up next, mainly because this has been as anticlimactic as the Championship play off group. Everyone around Genk has been entertaining in that they’ve let defenders have the season off and just let strikers run riot! Two 3-2 scorelines on Saturday night showed that, with Eupen and Lokeren overcoming Kortrijk and Roeselare respectively​. Henry Onyekuru again showed why the likelihood of him playing away from Belgium look even more inevitable, again, by the week, netting a brace in their win. 

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Lokeren saw 3 familiar faces to the scoresheet too this weekend, with Hupperts, Maric and De Ridder settle an away win for the top flight side over their second tier counterparts, and to be fair, Rùnar Kristinsson has put a good string of results together to end their season, even though there are 2 more matches to play. Genk’s European aims have never been in doubt, and again won 2-0 away at Mouscron last night proved that, but nobody fancied turning up week in week out. Even Eupen, who I truly believed would come closest to them, showed their youth and naivety. As much as they’ve entertained with 33 goals scored and conceded in their 8 matches showed how they can’t just seal a 1-0 win with teams on a similar level to them. 

Lastly, but certainly not leastly, is the group where finally, and I mean finally, a team may just have put their heads above the parapet in Sint Truiden. Technically, every team bar Standard Liege can still qualify for the Europa League play off, but I’m still unconvinced by Truiden, even though they’re oozing with confidence, dismantling USG 4-1 away, showing the Unionistes peaked too early in this stage. Standard dented Mechelen’s hopes however with a 2-0 win at home, and it was a well deserved 2-0 win too at home. And Lierse played out a spirited performance away at Beveren, where anyone could’ve taken the points, although putting money on a Beveren double and 3-2 scoreline over Lierse would’ve made you a fair bit of dough!

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Genk and Anderlecht are top quality. They’ve proved that and are the cream who have risen to the top if you ask me. Of course, mathematically, the title isn’t sewn up, but for all intensive purposes it sort of is. Play Off group 2A has just been fantastic. Unlike 2B where people are jostling to be first loser, teams are jostling for what these play offs are all about if you ask me. Goals, red cards, tension, quality, lack of quality. That’s what the Pro League is about sometimes…

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Can Les Mauves Do It Sunday?

This weekend could see the crowning of champions at the champions. Anderlecht travel to Bruges knowing a win will seal their first title in a couple of seasons and could be the perfect send off for Youri Tielemans, winner of the best player with African Descent, and start a party just an hour’s train journey west for the fans from Brussels!

Play Off 1

And as stated above, a huge, MASSIVE game will take place on Sunday which can decide where the title ends up this season. Both teams will strive for it, knowing that realistically these 2 are the only 2 fighting for it. Both teams!s have had their own injury concerns this week and nothing less than a full blooded performance​is needed, more so from Club Brugge in my opinion than their visitors. Absolutely fascinating encounter knowing a mistake could make or break a season!

Before that though are 2 big fixtures in terms of quality and entertainment. Saturday sees Zulte Waregem hosting Oostende who have been very good as of late, especially last weekend defeating Gent at home. Not just because Gent are decent, but because De Kustboys came back from behind and then held on in the latter stages. Zulte, who have just drifted since winning the cup probably can’t wait for next season. Looking ahead they’ve acquired Sandy Walsh, but lost goalscoring full back Henrik Dalsgaard going in the opposite direction. I just wouldn’t be surprised seeing an away win.

Lastly Charleroi travel to Gent. Knowing any result can happen, the only thing I have an inkling of happening is a goal from Yuya Kubo. The Japanese always shows up and at home against Charleroi, knowing a Champions League qualifying place is still a possibility, Gent still have to plow on. Les Zèbres are as good as well as unpredictable sometimes and with little to play for in the grand scheme of things, this could mean a free and expressive performance from the away side.

Play Off 2A

Still with so much to play for, this group has been exceptional throughout. Starting tonight, Standard who have shown a bit of fight, but not sustainable fight, take on Mechelen, hoping to steal a lead over those around them and getting an early 3 points before the weekend. It won’t be easy with Liege being at home, but Mechelen have to show that quality, and you could say determination through their drab 1-0 wins they grabbed throughout these play offs.

With that said, if Mechelen grab that win, Union Saint Gilloise or Sint Truiden could lose ground. Sint Truiden hold the cards with a better goal difference, but goal machine Gerkens has had an injury this week which may rule him out, meaning somebody else will have to step up this weekend. Like Kubo for Gent, Rajsel has been amazing for USG and a home win would be the right medicine for the second tier outfit. 

If either or all 3 slip up, Lierse are ANOTHER team who have crept up out of nowhere and could nip into a Europa League qualifying place. But travelling to a Zinho Gano inspired Beveren, the Freethiel will be a tough place to visit right now for Lierse. The great thing about this group, and it includes these 2, is that every side has had a stand out player, and Manuel Benson has been Lierse’s, hoping his energy and creativity, as well as eye for goal could help with the run in!

Play Off 2B

In a group which gave up quite quickly, Genk have qualified for the play off and they travel to Mouscron, who they demolished 6-0 last time out.

Saturday sees Eupen host Kortrijk and Roeselare go to Lokeren, 2 days before Lokeren unveil Samy Kehli as their new player for next season. 

For me, the latter match has the bite and Eupen vs Kortrijk may have the goals. There’s not much to say for this group. Obviously if I were professional them yes, I’d have to pad this all out, but it’s my blog. I enjoy writing about these 6 teams but with the season over for 5 of them, I can’t see much else happening other than either goals or just nothingness.