Westerlo, who are currently the only Belgian team in European action at this early stage of the football season, were not too best pleased when it was announced that the Supercup between Genk and Standard would take place on the same day as their Europa League second leg clash with TPS Turku. They need not have worried as it was a fairly unspectacular affair, lit up only by a stunning winning goal and a superb double save. The 1-0 result means that Genk lifted the Supercup at the sixth time of asking.
Both teams went into this Supercup on the back of a turbulent summer period. Champions Genk feared the loss of precocious duo goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and winger Kevin De Bruyne. Courtois is all but a Chelsea player having forced through a transfer with Genk set to receive a record €9m. You can read more about the ‘keeper on Goal.com once the transfer is official. De Bruyne is staying put for the meantime though there were further losses at the back with Koen Casteels joining Hoffenheim and defensive duo Eric Matoukou and Chris Mavinga joining Dnipro and Rennes respectively. However, a bright display against a strong Lyon side (at least on paper), which resulted in a 3-1 win, gave cause for optimism.
Standard have seen two stalwarts of the club depart in brothers Dominique and Lucien D’Onofrio, with Sint-Truiden chairman Roland Duchâtelet buying the club, ensuring no Dutch takeover. Despite the internet and newspapers being awash with transfer gossip, the only major departure thus far has been Axel Witsel to Benfica. Steven Defour, Mehdi Carcela and Eliaquim Mangala continue to be linked with moves away. Central midfield was new coach Jose Riga’s priority and the club have recently made moves for Yoni Buyens of KV Mechelen and Valencia’s Uruguayan international Nacho Gonzalez, who helped force Kevin Keegan out the door at Newcastle.
An unremarkable first-half, in front of a far from full Cristal Arena came to life just before the half-hour when Genk were reduced to ten men thanks to the dismissal of Jelle Vossen. Last season’s top scorer for the Limburgers was handed his marching orders for lashing out at Kanu after the two had a coming together. It was a harsh decision from referee Luc Wouters, who was perhaps guilty over being over fussy throughout. Vossen was certainly adamant after the match that “it was never a red card.”
Driven on by a sense of injustice, the home side began to look much more lively as Genk overturned Standard’s hitherto superiority. Kennedy and De Bruyne spurned chances before midfielder Tözsér Daniel produced a moment of class on the stroke of half-time. The Hungarian found the top corner with an inch-perfect free-kick courtesy of his magical left foot. And given the form Bolat was in today, it was necessary. With Standard having to reorganise things after a double substitution, Genk went into the break the happier of the two teams. De Bruyne, who has been linked to Chelsea, began with a few misplaced passes but he found his range and his speed as the game wore on and will only get better.
The second-half saw Standard continue to lack creativity, especially in central midfield as the likes of Leye (who started there) and Belhocine failed to offer much going forward although it was a surprise when the impressive Pape Camara was sacrificed for another attacker in Christian Benteke. It meant Standard lacked structure in the midfield and it was disappointing not to see Buyens. Genk kept pressing for a second despite their numerical disadvantage and Bolat denied De Bruyne, after the winger made a mug of the likeable but often hapless Goreux, who is a better midfielder than right-back. The Turkish keeper then pulled off a world-class double save, firstly denying Kennedy from point-blank range before back-pedalling to parry away a Tözsér corner, which was going in.
Standard made some attempt to equalise but new captain Jelle van Damme admitted they were not prepared to go 100% with the Champions League v Zürich next week. The only real alarm bells were a couple of fumbles from corners by goalkeeper Köteles Lászlo, who has otherwise impressed since succeeding Courtois in goal.
In conclusion, neither side were anywhere near their best for a variety of reasons, namely fitness, the time of year, the upcoming CL and absentees, particularly in the case of Standard. Genk are the only club yet to make a new signing but they have a good squad and the best manager among the top four. They stand a decent chance of knocking out Partizan.
Standard have some work to do, particularly in terms of team-work and their midfield play but come next Wednesday, 25000+ fans at Sclessin should spur them on. And we saw today that even this depleted side has real leaders such as Bolat, Pocognoli and van Damme. Riga is new and will be doing his best to impose his ideas on the squad although time is short. It is not all doom and gloom in Liège as Zürich lost their opening Swiss league game to Sion, with midfielder Xavier Margairaz panned for trying a Panenka from the spot…and missing!
It was not the most memorable of occasions on the day of Belgium’s national holiday but just as with the political situation, things can only get better for last season’s top two.