The sixteen teams in the Jupiler Pro League returned to action after an encouraging World Cup qualifying campaign start from the Rode Duivels. Would the international break put the buffers on the top teams form or be a useful interval for the struggling sides to start afresh?
Friday night’s delight came from Guldensporenstadion as Kortrijk took on league leaders Club Brugge. Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s team had beaten the Blauw-Zwart twice at home last season as they reached Playoffs 1 and were looking for a similar performance to continue their charge up the table. It was a great start for them as Ervin Zukanovic’s fantastic free-kick left Bojan Jorgačević with no chance. Club Brugge responded well and gained a equaliser in the second half thanks to in-form Carlos Bacca’s quick thinking, his fifth of the season. A draw a fair result.
That gave Anderlecht a chance to close the gap to the league leaders, as they faced Lierse away. A physically entertaining battle ensued right from the kickoff. Anderlecht took the lead after 12 minutes as Olivier Deschacht’s punt forward was collected by Kanu who finished adeptly. Les Mauves controlled the game, but were left to rue missed chances as the energetic Dolly Menga got a deserved goal five minutes from time. Anderlecht’s fourth draw and Lierse’s fifth, but you feel the home team will be more than happy with that point. Off to Milan for John van den Brom and co.
Elsewhere on Saturday, we had a rare Walloon derby between Mons and Charleroi. It was an electric start with three goals in a three minute period. Herve Kage lifted the ball past Olivier Werner on six minutes, which was quickly cancelled out by Tom Van Imschoot’s shot from outside the box a minute later. Les Zebres charged down the other end immediately, Kage caused havoc and Harlem Gnohéré put them in front once again. Charleroi went into an unassailable lead as Ziguy Badibanga’s shot was fumbled into the net by Werner. Mustapha Jarju got one more back before Parfait Mandanda became the hero saving a late penalty from him. A huge win for Yannick Ferrara’s side lifts them out of the bottom two.
Under pressure Cercle boss Bob Peeters was once again on the end of a defeat, this time at home to Lokeren. A drab affair was settled through Koen Persoons’s header in the 52nd minute. One point from a possible 21 suggests things could be coming to an end for him, unless they pick up a vital win next week. Only the derby, so not difficult then.
Waasland-Beveren look to be over their poor start, obtaining a point at Genk. Things didn’t begin well as Michael Clepkens spilt an easy shot to allow Jelle Vossen in on the 7th minute. All credit to Beveren for fighting back. Last week Barak Badash scored the winner, this week his compatriot Gal Shish scored an important equaliser. Genk’s attack looks fearsome (Gorius, Buffel, Joseph-Monrose, Vossen, De Ceulaer) but their defence needs time to gel. Despite Genk’s dominance after that goal, Been had to settle for his side fifth draw in seven, with Clepkens the star recovering well from his earlier error.
Gent continue to be inconsistent, falling to a 2-0 defeat at home to Mechelen. KV were in dire need of a kickstart to their season and despite being on the receiving end for most of the game, they proved most clinical. Antonio Ghomsi was also clinical, with his elbow almost knocking out Jordan Remacle. This didn’t stop Macedonian goalkeeper Tome Pacovski making his feelings known to the prone player. A bizarre moment. David Destorme’s header and a late counter from Alessandro Cordaro sealed an important win for Mechelen.
The only side of the top seven to win on Saturday were Zulte-Waregem. Thorgan Hazard made his debut on loan from Chelsea, and was arguably the best player on the pitch as he showcased some skills no doubt in the Hazard family gene pool. Jens Naessens stole the win in a closely-fought contest with OH Leuven, smashing the ball into the net as a cross fell at his feet.
Finally on Sunday, buoyant Beerschot hosted Standard. Elimane Coulibaly had spent most of this season bundled opportunities but he came up trumps finally. Stijn Wuytens’s free-kick rattled the bar, and the big man was the first to the rebound from a yard out. He even got a cut for his troubles. Zeki Fryers made his debut at the back for Standard who didn’t take long to restore order, as Imoh Ezekiel couldn’t miss soon after the interval. Ron Jans clearly had said the right things at half-time with Standard taking the lead from the spot, set-piece specialist Nacho Gonzalez converting just about. Back came Beerschot. Mununga levelled before Elimane Coulibaly grabbed his second of the game with a lovely strike. Huge comeback from Koster’s men and three valuable points, whilst Standard’s defence looks far from imperious