A derby match isn’t the ideal way for either manager to introduce themselves to the league as Club Brugge icon Franky Van Der Elst replaced Guido Brepoels in the STVV dugout after he paid the price for a poor start. Mario Been also managed the Champions League contenders for the first time and the game certainly lived up to the pre-written script. Elsewhere, last season’s cup finallists, Standard and Westerlo met at Sclessin, both undergoing transformations since the last time met in Brussels. All the main contenders played on Sunday as pacesetters Mechelen faced another challenge in formerly fancied Club Brugge, whilst Anderlecht hosted Kortrijk and Gent were away at Zulte Waregem – a tough place to go for some.
Will anyone finally break away? Probably not.
New managers plus valuable points equals a guaranteed classic, and we were given that at Sclessin. Franky Van Der Elst was hoping to change Sint-Truiden’s not just in the league but in this fixture – only two wins in the last 26 derbies for De Kanaries. Henrik Van Crombrugge showed both sides of his personality spilling the ball needlessly early on before denying Kennedy soon after. The home fans gave their support to former boss Guido Brepoels in the 12th minutes, thanking him for bringing the team back to the top league. This was likely forgotten however as STVV took the lead thanks to Reza’s great individual effort. He ran to celebrate with the bench as Van Der Elst warned the team to focus. Ultimately, their lead lasted less than two minutes as Thomas Buffel stunned the crowd with his cross that clipped the underside of the bar.
Vossen hit the bar attempting to lob the keeper before Buffel scored his and Genk’s second. More misery for former Genk player Dmitri Daeseleire as Daniel Pudil evaded his challenge before squaring to Buffel. Mario Been signalled everything’s a ok.
The astro-turf Stayen pitch provided end-to-end stuff throughout and Sint-Truiden showed some determination as Genk’s defence struggled to stay on their feet. But they finally got a third, Jelle Vossen given too much space to put it past Van Crombrugge. All over then? Not quite. Gregory Christ found the reply with a great shot across Lazlo Koteles as Genk failed to close him down. The crowd sensed a resurrection. Koteles tangled with his defence collecting an aerial ball gifting German Sandro Kotysch with the equaliser. Salvation. STVV’s season was up and running.
Then more drama. A free-kick in Daniel Toszer territory which he duly put in the bottom corner. Genk had won it right at the death. A game of the season contender purely for the way it swung back and forth. Van Der Elst will be happy with the team’s response but the defence is his main priority, having shipped 19 goals in 6 games. As for Been, his formation didn’t work and he’ll need to fix the problem by Valencia on Tuesday.
As the Frank Sinatra classic goes, ‘riding high in May, shot down in August’. Just roll with it. The changes to both sides since the cup final have been astonishing. For Standard, their biggest players all left and they’ve had to build from the ground up again whilst Westerlo look completely different to the team that made the final, yet the side is largely unchanged. It seems that José Riga is finally heading in the right direction, with his side unbeaten in their past four games in all competitions. In a rather dull first half, it was the home team that showed the most desire to go onto win; Franck Berrier testing Bart Deelkens with a rasping 30 yard free-kick. Mr Motivator, Jelle Van Damme would be welcomed into the Westerlo dressing room and he proved a handful once again on the left. But the best chance of the first half fell to Shlomi Arbeitman, performing his best Robert Earnshaw impression blazing over from five yards.
Najib Annab looked the most dangerous for De Kempeneers, but he was lucky to stay on the field for his rash tackle on Mbaye Leye. The replays showed he went studs in and could be punished retrospectively. Deelkens’ blinding display kept Standard at bay, performing great stops from Mémé Tchité and Van Damme. His resolve looked to be enough to gain Westerlo their second point of the season but then three minutes from time, Yoni Buyens’ drive from outside the area struck Juande’s hand and a penalty was given. The impressive Berrier sent Deelkens the wrong way to pile more misery on Jan Ceulemans and Westerlo, who remain rock bottom.
The promoted teams battled it out for the title of best newcomer. We also had a female linesman for this game, but I will restrain myself from the obvious Keys/Gray comparisons. The contest was fierce and how Benjamin Nicaise stayed on the field for his lunge, I will never know. Mons were given an adequate punishment from the resulting free-kick as a penalty was given in the same move, although Bjorn Ruytinx certainly went down easily. Jordan Remacle with a cooly taken spot-kick.
Then everything became rather silly. Cedric Berthelin became Cedric the entertainer, juggling the ball in his own area and giving an indirect free-kick to the opposition. Ibou was then booked twice, for almost doing an Ilunga Mwepu (Zaire in WC74) and rushing up to the taker. His face when it happens is hilarious. Pause it.
Mons were down a man, but still found their way back into the game, Zola Matumona delighting the away fans with his deep free kick that went all the way in. This game was bizarre. Derick Ogbu restored normality late on, smashing the first on 70 minutes before making it safe in the 83rd, with a similar shot on the opposite side. OHL may have won it, but this game is remembered more for its strange incidents.
Sub-par starts for these two and they couldn’t be separated here. The home team started brightly, having a goal disallowed for a foul on Barry Copa, although you suspect he was positioned badly. The game was marred by woeful tackling and Jurgen Brinkman decided to keep a full compliment of players when he didn’t really need to – Katuku Tshimanga being most lucky to stay on the pitch. Peter Maes had a right to be angry with his defence, consistently messing up. Jeremy Taravel handballed in the area and Dodo El Gabbas took the lead with the resulting penalty.
Lierse were on their way to their first win of the season before it was cruelly snatched away from them in the 91st minute, Mokulu putting it past the diving Kawashima to give Lokeren a point. Overall – a stinker of a game.
The noisy neighbours are making a lot of noise. Club Brugge may have bought heavily but Cercle’s loan dealings have been inspired. But it was their signing of unknown Portuguese striker Rudy whose made the biggest impact. The right-sided winger opened the scoring on 25 minutes, firing past Stijn Stijnen and then dancing with the Sporting Lisbon loanees. Bit of a clique there. He got his second (which is five in five games) with a rather smooth move, dancing his way through the Beerschot defence and slotting it home. More dancing.
Beerschot spent most of the afternoon scything the Cercle players down but outside of that, Ibrahim Sidibe got one back for the visitors and also missed a glorious header. Bob Peeters’ side went top on Saturday night for the first time 49 years. All the pre-season talk was of Club Brugge, maybe we should sit up and take notice of their city rivals?
An intriguing fixture between two of the frontrunning teams. Marc Brys attempted to outfox Adrie Koster by leaving out talisman Julien Gorius then putting him in right near the whistle. Mechelen hadn’t lost at home whilst Club Brugge had drawn every away game so far. Obviously this trend meant absolutely nothing as Adrie Koster’s team had a lightning quick start. Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe’s teasing cross was headed in by captain Carl Hoefkens at the near post, giving Club an early lead. A well worked but simple training ground routing and Mechelen were still in the starting blocks. Marc Brys needed to instill a sense of urgency. He got that response soon after as Kevin Vandenbergh hit the post.
Chances were at a premium in the half – Brugge defended well and had the most possession yet a goal wasn’t coming for either team, Bjorn Vleminckx was certainly missed. The second half began similarly, Club Brugge dominating but fluffing their lines. Joseph Akpala missed a glorious chance before getting a reprieve soon after with a free header. They probably thought the two goal lead was safe but Mechelen grabbed a consolation back as Inter Milan loanee, Denis Alibec caused havoc up front. The final touch came off Tom Hogli as Michael Almeback tackled the Romanian. But it wasn’t enough – Club Brugge jump above Mechelen to second, just behind city rival Cercle.
Trond Sollied’s side were met with pyrotechnics at the Regenboogstadion. Darje Kalezic needed to get his Essevee team on track whilst Gent had hit form after an opening day defeat. It was the home team who struck first, a sensational move involving the entire front four. Jonathan Delaplace made a great run through the defence before Guiseppe Rossini was given the easiest chance to tap home. Gent’s defensive frailties exposed again, mainly from the speed of the attack. This merely angered Gent though, who had the most chances in the half yet Essevee still looked dangerous.
The second half was all Gent though. Bernd Thijs deflected a shot into the net, but was offside. The turning point happened just after, last man Miguel Dachelet was sent off for a tug on Elimane Coulibaly. Thijs scored the resulting free-kick as Sammy Bossut failed to turn it round the corner. Four minutes later, fortune shone on Sollied’s men yet again, getting a penalty as Marko Suler was deemed to be fouled in the area. Thijs got his second. Yassine El Ghanassy was taken off, probably to calm him down replaced by Ibra Conte, who scored Gent’s third to seal their place at the summit of the table.
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Tagged Barry Copa, Cercle Brugge, Champions League, Cup final, Daniel Pudil, Daniel Toszer, Derick Ogbu, Dodo El Gabbas, Feyenoord, Franck Berrier, Franky Van Der, Henrik Van Crombrugge, Ibou, Jelle Van Damme, Jelle Vossen, Lierse, Lokeren, Mario Been, Mons, OH Leuven, Pater Maes, Peter Van Der Heyden, Reza Goochanjehad, Robert Earnshaw, Rudy, Sint Truiden. Genk, Standard Liège, Thomas Buffel, Valencia, Westerlo, Zola Matumona