The first game on Super Sunday turned into a rout as Racing Genk capitalised on tired Club Brugge legs and a lack of organisation to condemn the visitors to a deserved and embarrassing defeat in the race for Europe.
Club coach Juan Carlos Garrido rang the changes in the wake of last week’s disappointing 0-0 draw with Genk ; Ryan Donk came into midfield, Oscar Duarte made his debut at the back and Maxime Lestienne was preferred on the left to Eidur Gudjohnsen. Vadis Ojdidja began in an unfamiliar right-sided role, echoing how Gent used Hannes van der Bruggen seven days ago.
For Genk, Bernard Kumordzi’s power was preferred to the guile and creativity of Julien Gorius with Monrose edging out Elyaniv Barda. The hosts were coming off a run of four points from their last five with Mechelen applying a little pressure in the race for Play-Off 1.
The beginning of the match had a stop-start nature to it, with neither side good enough to stamp their authority on proceedings. Genk were not fully focused at the back but nor could Club Brugge keep the ball for any sustained length of time.
Racing opened the scoring in the twelfth minute. Khaleem Hyland surged through the centre of the pitch and when he received the ball a second time, his turn of pace left De Bock struggling. The Trinidadian’s cross was deflected via the ex-Lokeren man over the helpless Kujovic. Alarmingly for Club Brugge, they failed to realise the threat of Hyland and their defensive shape was non-existent ; as such it is difficult to put the goal purely down to fortune.
Genk had the ball in the net for a second time through De Ceulaer but Kumordzi was correctly flagged for offside. The home side went into the break with a one-goal lead after De Ceulaer’s superb shot was kept out by the post and Köteles produced a sliding block any centre-back would be proud of to foil Lestienne.
The woodwork came to Club’s rescue once more when Buffel let fly after biding his time and toying with Stenman. There was no escaping Laurens De Bock’s red card on 56 minutes, which proved to be the key turning point of the afternoon. De Ceulaer was hauled down when through on goal and De Bock was rightly red carded for a professional foul. That said, the initial contact took place outside the box and the penalty was harsh on the away side. Not that Khaleem Hyland was complaining, he marked an outstanding display with a low, hard penalty into the corner.
Colombian striker Carlos Bacca’s goal on 85 minutes awoke his underperforming side from their slumber but it’s worth recalling that he was only still on the pitch due to an injury to Carl Hoefkens, which meant he had to come off instead. Club Brugge’s top scorer flicked a near-post cross past a stranded Köteles.
If Genk fans were nervous due to their side’s propensity to throw away points in the latter stages of games, they need not have been. Substitute Elyaniv Barda calmed the home supporters with a stunning solo slalom through the Club defence as he ran Stenman and Donk ragged, handing the club hierarchy yet another reason to award him a new, long-term deal.
More salt was rubbed into Club’s wounds in stoppage time when another sub Anthony Limbombe escaped from makeshift right-back Jesper Jørgensen before smashing the ball past Kujovic. It was the culmination of a miserable day for Garrido’s side, who despite bringing in 24 players in the last two seasons, look no closer to that elusive first league title since 2005.
The star-studded nature of Club’s squad allied to their haphazard, free-spending transfer policy fuelled by Bart Verhaeghe has created a plethora of problems for Garrido, whom I feel overcomplicates his approach. Carlos Bacca is the outstanding striker in Belgium alongside Diemerci Mbokani. As such, the side should be built around him and he should not have to accommodate the disappointing Meme Tchité.
Furthermore, if you asked any fan to name the best defenders in the league, most would include Ryan Donk alongside the like of Kouyaté, Nuytinck and Koulibaly. It’s a worthy idea to use his technical skills and vision in the Club midfield but when you are struggling at the back, it is a waste not to make use of the Dutch international, who is a crucial member of the side.
Genk found the right balance between their more skilful players and their more powerful ones – with Hyland giving a virtuoso display in the middle of the park, overshadowing the likes of Adu and Donk. He is surely a player many bigger clubs will have their eye on, including Everton who decided not to go back in for the disappointing Vadis last month.
This result does not alter the state of play a great deal but as a neutral, it was nice to see a squad/team built coherently triumph over another, which has been thrown together at a great deal of expense. The question is, how much would Michel Preud’homme be worth to the fervently ambitious Verhaeghe?