Such were the temperatures engulfing Belgium this weekend (well into the 30s) that there were drinks breaks scheduled at the halfway point of each half. Entirely understandable in the circumstances, it was nonetheless a strange sight resembling a cricket match. The heat has also been on KAA Gent after a shaky start to the season and so their 2-0 win over Waasland Beveren was as welcome as an ice-cold beverage in the shade. Title favourites Anderlecht and Club Brugge both picked up wins as did surprise package Zulte Waregem in their derby against Kortrijk.
Charleroi 2-6 Standard Liège
The pre-match fanfare was explosive as flares went off in the stands of Charleroi’s big but relatively empty stadium. There were also fireworks on the pitch as the dynamic young striker Imoh Ezekiel raced into the box and curled the ball past Parfait Mandanda in the second minute. However, les Carolos have surprised most observers this season and they swiftly replied. Gnohéré’s excellent first touch inside the box helped him elude van Damme’s desperate challenge and the striker, so important last term, proceeded to beat Kawashima in the Standard goal. Astrit Adjarevic restored les Rouches’ lead from an excellent low cross from Seijas before a red card for defender Dzinic for a professional foul on Ezekiel ensured les Carolos would always be at best at arm’s length. The ensuing penalty was converted in Panenka-like fashion by the irresistible Seijas.
Charleroi have at times surprised us and they punished Standard for taking their foot of the pedal through a Bojovic header from close range. That only served to spur Ron Jans’ men on and they replied with three more goals to complete what surely goes down as a memorable derby win. Yoni Buyens dazzled with a wonderful first-time lob over a stranded Mandanda before then heading home from a corner. Ezekiel added the icing on the cake with a sixth late on, tucking away the rebound after substitute Mpoku had been denied by Mandanda. To add to a great day out in Hainaut, the visiting fans were even cooled down with cold water coming from a hosepipe.
Post-match, Sébastien Pocognoli (pictured above), completely lost his marbles and decided it was a good idea to place a Standard flag in the centre-circle, enraging the Charleroi supporters. His coach Ron Jans was in no mood to defend him before having even seen the pictures, accusing Poco of disrepecting their opponents. The police have now charged the Belgian international for a violation of the football code. This inflammatory incident will no doubt remind many of the time when then Galatasaray boss Graeme Souness planted a flag in the centre-circle at Fenerbahçe.
Standard had struggled to find the back of the net early doors this season but since Ogunjimi has been replaced by Ezekiel upfront, things have started to look up. With the news that Ogunjimi is out for an unspecified period of time owing to a thyroid problem, it looks difficult for the man on loan from Mallorca. It should also be borne in mind that the players are not used to the oppressive heat and so that goes a long way to explaining Standard’s slackness after the red card and Charleroi conceding a glut of goals later on in the second period (though Charleroi midfielder Hervé Kage was having none of that and admitted his side had been made to look foolish). As for Standard, with seven points from four games, it’s far from the crisis in Liège many sceptics had wilfully predicted.
Anderlecht 2-1 Mons
John van den Brom’s men warmed up for next week’s Champions League fixtures with three points but unlike last week, Dieumerci Mbokani was not the star of the show. Interestingly, Juhász Roland remained on the bench with Wasyl partnering Kouyaté in defence. Having earlier struck the post, Milan Jovanovic opened the scoring with an emphatic finish just before half-time. The Serb outpaced Sapina to meet De Sutter’s deft flick and drove the ball home.
Enzo Scifo, a true Anderlecht great in his playing days and someone who harbours ambitions to coach les Mauves some day, saw Mustapha Jarju equalise on 54 minutes with a screamer into the top corner following some neat play just outside the penalty area. Barely a minute later, Sapina was red carded for a professional foul on Mbokani inside the box. However, Wasyl’s penalty was hopeless and continued Anderlecht’s awful record from the spot. Substitute Sasha Iakovenko saved the champions’ blushes with a near-post header twenty minutes from time as Denis Odoi got his fifth assist of the season.
Club Brugge 3-1 Beerschot
It was to be an unhappy return for Adrie Koster and Stijn Stijnen to their old stomping ground, though the former is remembered much more fondly than the latter. Carlos Bacca, upfront ahead of the inconsistent Meme Tchité and Bremen-bound Joseph Akpala, justified his pick in the 20th minute. He beat Stijnen with a deft right-footed chip after he had earlier struck the woodwork. 1-0 at the break, the visitors stunned Club courtesy of a rocket from Stijn Wuytens, who found the top corner from 25 yards.
Club had squandered a lead three times the previous week against Mechelen and almost did again but Jordi Figueras, playing in his best central defensive role, twice cleared off the line to deny first Galesic and then Coulibaly. And there was an element of controversy when Blauw-Zwart went ahead, Jonathan Blondel rounding off a fine move with 15 minutes left but he undoubtedly fouled Hernan Losada to kick-start the attack. Club Brugge’s best player this season Thomas Meunier added the icing on the cake in stoppage time with a fierce shot into the roof of the net. Koster’s new-look Beerschot have much work to do.
OH Leuven 3-2 Cercle Brugge
It has been a turbulent period for Cercle Brugge of late. A likeable club unless you support Blauw-Zwart, they thought they could count on receiving over €1m for Rudy, who failed a medical with Alania Vladikavkaz. Now Ariël Jacobs’ FC København are interested in Rudy as well as team-mate Igor Vetokele. If Groen-Zwart saw a trip to Den Dreef as a springboard to better things, they received a fair shock in Vlaams-Brabant.
Bob Peeters’ man were by far the better side. Logan Bailly made two fine stops before Vetokele had a goal ruled out for offside. Veteran forward Oleg Iachtchouk scored the opener from the penalty spot on 25 minutes. Ngolok equalised ten minutes later with a superb header, which beat Verbist and went in off the post.
Rudy replaced Vetokele at half-time and he scored what could be his last goal in Belgium. He made the most of a terrible defensive header from Koen Weuts and nutmegged Bailly. It was all downhill from then on. Cornelis was penalised for handball and Ibou sent Verbist the wrong way from the penalty spot. OHL, who also came back to draw with Genk at home, secured an excellent win on 77 minutes through ex-Club man Karel Geraerts, who blasted the ball into the top corner. It’s OHL’s first win of the season.
Waasland-Beveren 0-2 KAA Gent
For a long time, it appeared as it would be yet another poor day at the office for De Buffalo’s who survived a penalty shout and disallowed goal in the first half. Rachid Farssi should have put the home side ahead after the break but not for the first time this season, he made the wrong decision when in the ideal position to score while an unmarked Alves da Silva headed wide with no-one near him.
Things turned around in Gent’s favour six minutes from the end. It took teenage starlet Hannes van der Bruggen to show some of his more experienced team-mates how it is done, sweetly striking the ball low into the corner. Christian Brüls, who had earlier threatened from range, added a second after Conté had led the W-B defence a merry dance. If the ex-Westerlo man wants a new deal following Gent’s decision to reject a €4m bid from Nice earlier in the summer, that’s the way to go about it though the winger needs to continue to perform like this for the rest of the campaign if he is to be spoken of in the same breath as Gent alumni Mbark Boussoufa and Bryan Ruiz.
Gent still need a top quality striker but is nevertheless no simple task to find someone who constitutes a significant improvement over what they have within their budgetary framework. Waasland-Beveren should have more points on the board but are learning the hard way that you cannot continue missing gilt-edged chances at this level.
Lokeren 2-1 KV Mechelen
Peter Maes’ men emerged triumphant in the battle of the two most likely contenders for a play-off 1 spot outside the big five. Benji De Ceulaer hit the post in the first-half having stayed on his feet following what would have been a professional foul and red card for Seth De Witter. Sporting eventually took a deserved lead on the hour mark. Milos Maric celebrated his first start since joining from Lierse with a thumping finish from around the penalty spot. He has thus far proved to be the smart acquisition he appeared.
Three minutes later, the ever-improving Hamdi Harbaoui said baie danke to Cape Town-born wideman Ayanda Patosi, heading home from a peach of a cross from the South African. Mechelen showed their attacking threat the previous week against Club Brugge and made it slightly uncomfortable towards the end. After the returning Copa pulled off two good saves, David Destorme’s consolation goal with a header deep into injury time was too little, too late.
Zulte Waregem 2-0 Kortrijk
Franky Dury’s men responded to last week’s draw in Beerschot with their third win in four games over local rivals Kortrijk in the West Vlaamse derby. It comes as no surprise to regular viewers of the Pro League that French playmaker Franck Berrier was instrumental once more. Though De Kerels had the best of the opportunities in the first-half (and indeed before the opening goal) the sides went into the break level.
The deadlock was broken 25 minutes from time thanks to Jens Naessens, who profited from good build-up play from Berrier and Davy De fauw to lash home from seven yards. Ivan Lendric was picked out by my good self as a player to watch this season and the young Croatian striker sealed the win in stoppage time. Taking advantage of Berrier’s pass and Kortrijk’s need to throw men forward, the new Essevee #11 kept his cool to stroke the ball past Darren Keet.
Lierse 1-1 Racing Genk
Mario Been’s men continued their frustrating start to the competition as they again failed to keep hold of a lead. Lierse had their chances before the deadlock was broken with Bidaoui striking the crossbar. While much of the attention on Genk centres around Christian Benteke (who scored against the Dutch in midweek) and Jelle Vossen (who has just signed a new, improved contract), it was Steven Joseph-Monrose who got the goal. He controlled a cross-field ball from Camus and found the bottom corner with ten minutes remaining. Lierse, to their credit, responded, hitting the post before equalising through substitute Jason Adesanya, who was unmarked at the back post and profited from Anele’s error.