It was polar opposite emotions for the Belgian clubs in Europe midweek. Anderlecht and Genk safely through to the next stage with comfortable aggregate wins, whilst Club Brugge and Gent slumped to Copenhagen and Videoton respectively. Club Brugge in particular can feel hard done by, having a goal ruled out for offside harshly. Gent however outclassed by inferior opposition.
But now the focus switches back to domestic action and Club Brugge certainly had a tricky tie. Georges Leekens was looking for a response from his side at Mechelen, whilst OH Leuven were the opponents for Trond Sollied’s Gent. He was typically deflective of media pressure saying the battle isn’t over yet.
After two weeks of abject performances, especially in front of goal, Ron Jans decided to shake things up a bit. He dropped the out-of-sorts Marvin Ogunjimi, in favour of young Imoh Ezekiel leading the line, with exciting wingers Luis Seijas and Frederic Bulot in support. It seemed to do the trick, with Standard looking rejuvenated up top, Seijas in particular a menace on the left flank. Yet it was Dirk Geeraerd’s team who took the lead against the run of play, as former Genk man Dugary Ndabashinze finishing the move. In past weeks, Les Rouches would have dominated proceedings and not found a goal, but it didn’t take long for them this time. The excellent Nacho Gonzalez and Luis Seijas combined for a goal made in South America as the commentator puts it. A comical collision saw Bas Sibum head into his own net, then Gonzalez converted a penalty. Standard and Ron Jans up and running.
Likely feeling robbed after Copenhagen’s suckerpunch on Wednesday (although they shouldn’t have let it happen), Georges Leekens wanted his team to come out fighting. And it looked like they would, after the in-form Israeli Lior Refaelov scored one for his highlight reel, a magnificently controlled strike. But with ruthless aggression comes lackadaisical defending, as Danish midfielder Thomas Enevoldsen got his first for Mechelen soon after. Things got even crazier before the interval. Refaelov again turned on the style, playing through Thomas Meunier for his third goal in three. But again Mechelen caught the Blauw-Zwart defence cold, as Wannes Van Tricht finished well.
The break was needed in this fast-paced cracker, but after the half-time oranges, things once again picked up. First, Seth De Witte handled right in front of goal, gifting Club Brugge a penalty. Refaelov converted it, for his fourth goal of the season and is arguably the best player in the league currently. His chipped penalty certifying his class so far. Harm Van Veldhoven’s team just wouldn’t lie down though, coming from behind for the third time. Alessandro Cordaro’s pin-point cross found Steven De Petter, who headed into the top corner. Georges Leekens will rue these two dropped points, but Mechelen showed some fighting spirit in the game of the weekend.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Sporting Charleroi got their first win back in the big time, nabbing a surprising 1-0 win against Kortrijk. Despite being outplayed in the first, Charleroi didn’t concede or more appropriately Kortrijk couldn’t finish. Whatever Yannick Ferrara said at half-time worked. He brought on Herve Kage who changed the game, for better or for worse, and Les Zebres came out aggressively with some close chances. They still had Parfait Mandanda to thank, for showing Shades of Steve. Then, Charleroi broke and it was Abraham Kumedor stooping on his own to give an unlikely away win and condemn Kortrijk to their first defeat of the season.
Mons, who had began their season well with Enzo Scifo at the helm and Jeremy Perbet benched, shared the points with Lierse. Most of the talk at the Egyptian-owned club was the return of the world’s most capped international Ahmed Hassan. The 37-year old, once of Anderlecht, has been linked to Lierse for some time, given their ownership. But things haven’t started well for them so far, winless and goalless from two games. They went behind again, despite having the better chances. Tim Matthys’s drilled cross found an unmarked Jeremy Sapina to put Mons in front. But all credit to Lierse for finding a quick equaliser, Kostadin Hazurov get a touch in a frantic scramble. Still no win for Lierse but much improved.
Another team struggling in the early going was Beerschot. No points on the board and Adrie Koster will be looking to fix it sooner rather than later. They were up against one of the early pacesetters, in Francky Dury’s Zulte-Waregem. It was a fairly drab game until the second half, where Wim De Decker popped up with the opener. It looked like they would hold for the first win of the season, but unsurprisingly, Essevee’s talisman Franck Berrier made sure that they would settle for a point.
Trond Sollied was no doubt feeling the pressure going into Sunday’s game with Oud-Heverlee Leuven. Outclassed by Videoton and losing their heads, he needed a performance from De Buffalos against one of the perceived weaker teams in the league. He couldn’t have asked for anything worse when Ibou scored yet another goal for OHL, this time in the first minute! Gent rallied though, finding an equaliser through Wallace. Their dominance throughout counted for very little, and when the full-time whistle came, boos rang round the Ottenstadion. More pressure on Sollied with his side without a win now since the opening day.
Two sides who had had freescoring starts this season, but with leaky defences met at the Cristal Arena, so clearly this one was destined for goals. Not so, both put in impressive shifts in an entertaining game. Jugoslav Lazić was the busier of the two stoppers, keeping Genk at bay for most of the game. It looked to be heading for a third consecutive draw for Mario Been’s men, but two minutes from time, they found a way through. The substitute Anthony Limbombe’s cushion header found Man of the Match Thomas Buffel, busting a guy at the far post. Genk secured their first win of the season.
The final game of the weekend saw Anderlecht, riding high from a European rout, taking on Bob Peeters’ Cercle Brugge. Les Mauves were in cruise control throughout, taking the lead on 4 minutes. Denis Odoi likely reminding Marc Wilmots that there actually are other right-backs in the division. His run on the right, followed by precision pass, left Dieumercis Mbokani with the goal at his mercy. The Congolese striker got his second twenty minutes later, at the second time of asking, which left Bob Peeters scratching his head at how to turn the tide. The partnership of Tom De Sutter and Mbokani was really at its best, with Anderlecht purring at times. The hat-trick was completed 15 minutes from time, Mbokani lifting it over Bram Verbist. The way his season has began, it wouldn’t surprise me if a Premier League club missing a targetman would want him. In fact, he took around 12 hours to make clear his interest of any English move.