This weekend’s action was merely an afterthought for many Belgian football fans, still savouring the mid-week victory over the old enemy Holland in the international ‘friendly’. A fantastic performance, from barely any players actually still plying their trade in Belgium, should be lauded but not too much – the real business takes place in September against Wales and beyond.
As a consequence, seven of the eight games kicked off at the same time on Saturday, to allow for recovery. The real plum fixture though was on Sunday – the first Walloon derby in some time following Charleroi’s promotion. Add in a scorching Belgian day and you’ve got some hot action.
Beginning his career at the biggest club in the land, Enzo Scifo took his Mons side (who were going fairly well after the first few games) to the might of Anderlecht. This week Scifo laid down the law, telling last year’s star striker Jeremy Perbet that he was sick of his moaning about a transfer. Now, he just wanted on-field matters to do the talking.
Les Mauves dominated the first half but couldn’t find that cutting edge. They also had to contend with some questionable refereeing from Joeri van der Velde and his assistants, but so did Mons. Two minutes before half-time, one decision went Anderlecht’s way, a sweeping move connected Tom De Sutter to Milan Jovanovic and the Serbian powered home the finish.
Mons weren’t disheartened though, equalising brilliant on 55 minutes. Their front four all bombed forward and found a gap in the Anderlecht defence, as Mustapha Jarju blasted one into the top corner. Jeremy Sapina’s luck ran out finally, sent off for bundling over Dieumerci Mbokani in the box. Scifo, probably bemused by the minimal contact applauded the referee’s decision. Fortunately for him, Marcin Wasilewski hit it straight down the middle – Anderlecht’s fourth penalty miss in a row. They got their breakthrough on 70 minutes, forgotten striker Sacha Iakovenko heading on Denis Odoi’s cross. A tough 2-1 win, but one that is good preparation for the Champions League qualifier against Cypriot team Limassol.
Elsewhere, Club Brugge manager Georges Leekens (likely bemoaning the national side wondering why they didn’t play like that under him) faced former Blauw-Zwart coach Adrie Koster’s Beerschot. It also marked the first game Stijn Stijnen has played against his previous club, after being acrimoniously axed for his part in internet trolling. Carlos Bacca was given the nod over the other strikers by Leekens, mainly due to Joseph Akpala being Werder Bremen-bound. It turned out to be a great decision after his classy opener, deftly placing the ball over a onrushing Stijnen.
Aside from that terrible defensive error to allow Bacca in, Beerschot fought their way into the game and deserved their equaliser – an absolute wonderstrike from Stijn Wuytens. No one closed him down, but he finished expertly. Beerschot almost took the lead but Jordi Figueras cleared off the line, as Bojan Jorgačević lay prone on the ground following a nasty collision with Elimane Coulibaly.
Drawing blood just angered Club Brugge though, eventually withstanding the pressure to take three points. First Jonathan Blondel was free on the backpost to score, then on the counter, Thomas Meunier scored deep into injury time and maintained his 100% scoring record this year. A win that slightly flattered them but probably just about enough. Beerschot still with a solitary point from four games.
The surprise package so far this season has been Essevee. Francky Dury has got them working as a unit, plus they appear to have a talisman in Franck Berrier. Once again, they looked up for the challenge, sweeping aside Kortrijk by two second-half goals. Jens Naessens opened the scoring with a typical striker’s finish on 65 minutes, before Croatian Ivan Lendrić came off the bench to seal the win. The finishing separated the teams here, and sent Essevee level on top, with 10 out of a possible 12. Will they keep up with the pace?
Elsewhere, two teams struggling to get out of the blocks met at Den Dreef, as OH Leuven played Cercle Brugge in a topsy-turvy 3-2 thriller. The away team’s early dominance paid off as Oleg Iachtchouk converted from the spot, but OHL drew level thanks to Evariste Ngolok’s unorthodox header. After failing a medical midweek, Rudy returned from Russia to put Cercle in front, snatching a goal from a defensive mistake. Three minutes later and we were all square again as Ibou Sawaneh scored his penalty. It was all set up for a blinding finish, and we got one thanks to Karel Geraets and his sweetly struck volley. A first win for Leuven and Bob Peeters’s team remain rooted to the bottom in a game they should have seen out.
Another team struggling were Waasland-Beveren, finding life in the top tier tough. They hosted Gent, where things weren’t exactly going to plan either. Despite performing well in the first half, Waasland-Beveren succumbed to two late goals as Gent/Christian Brüls turned the screw. He was instrumental in both goals, first flicking on to Hannes Van der Bruggen on the edge of the area, and the highly rated youngster did the rest. He then finished Ibrahima Conte’s work to round the keeper and seal a much-needed win for De Buffalos. Still no win for WB.
Hoping for some inspiration from Jelle Vossen, having just signed a new deal, Lierse and Genk shared the points in a fairly uneventful game. Stephen Joseph-Monrose slotted home ten minutes from time and they looked to have stolen the points. But up stepped Jason Adesanya unmarked to condemn both teams to yet another draw. Finally on Saturday, Lokeren edged out a close game against Mechelen, 2-1, between two teams hoping to be in the Playoffs come March. Milos Maric fired Lokeren into the lead with a powerful effort, before, Hamdi Harbouai made it safe with a good header three minutes later. A consolation goal came courtesy of David Destorme.
In sweltering Charleroi, we saw the first derby since March 2011 between the two biggest clubs in Wallonia. The 32-degree heat created a raucous atmosphere from both sets of fans, with the Charleroi fire brigade using hosepipes to keep them cool. But at least this time, the passionate support didn’t boil over, as it often does in these derbies.
Last time they met here, there was unprecedented violence from both ends of the ground – Charleroi throwing tennis balls onto the pitch contesting their imminent relegation making their feelings about the board heard, whilst Standard decided to follow suit with flares much to the disgust of their team then. Obviously now, Standard look a much different team and had looked to have turned the corner under Ron Jans.
The game itself didn’t take long to burst into life, young Imoh Ezekiel once again impressing and finishing within three minutes. Charleroi weren’t shell-shocked though, as Harlem Gnohéré levelled immediately. In between beverage breaks, Standard took control and pushed on. First it was Astrit Ajdarevic who completed Luis Seijas’s cross before the heat got too much for Elvedin Dzinic as he was sent for an early shower for pulling down Ezekiel on goal. It was the Venezuelan who turned on the style, Panenka’ing the penalty.
A much-needed half-time break for the 10-men Les Zebres, regaining energy to pull a goal back thanks to Mujusko Bojovic’s close-range header. But Standard pressed on their numerical advantage and really embarrassed their rivals. Yoni Buyens sealed the win with an audacious lob over the standard Parfair Mandanda but it wasn’t over. Ron Jans’s side got one more through Buyens mid-way through the second half as Buyens headed home unchallenged. Finally Imoh Ezekiel finished the rout with his second. Lessons to be learnt in the sun for Charleroi as they were humbled by Les Rouches.