Club Brugge came very close to ending Anderlecht’s long fourteen game unbeaten run in the league but John van den Brom’s supersubs Demy De Zeeuw and Samuel Armenteros combined to snatch a 2-2 draw in the closing minutes.
Garrido had opted for a robust starting eleven with Ryan Donk moving forward into midfield and Eidur Gudjohnsen having to make do with a place on the bench, thus making Carlos Bacca the central focal point in attack. John van den Brom opted for his usual strongest side with the exception of Milan Jovanovic, who was suspended. Ronald Vargas didn’t get the chance to face his former side with Sasha Iakovenko preferred.
It was a scrappy and fairly uneventful opening to the game until Club were awarded a penalty after seventeen minutes. Carlos Bacca sprung the offside trap and despite a poor first touch, he beat the onrushing Silvio Proto to the ball before being brought down. Nzolo pointed to the spot and booked the Anderlecht goalkeeper. Few could have foreseen what was to unfold.
Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe took the penalty against his former club and his poor effort down the middle was saved by Proto. The rebound fell to Refaelov who played the ball to Vadis, via Nuytinck and despite the Club Brugge midfielder being in an offside position, there was no flag when he atoned for his earlier miss and stabbed the ball home.
Anderlecht were rightly aggrieved and almost hit back soon after when Dennis Praet stuck the base of the post. The first half proved to be a tactical triumph for Garrido with Vadis imperious in central midfield and Anderlecht’s main men Biglia and Mbokani struggling on the periphery of the game.
Dennis Praet made way for Tom De Sutter but to no avail as Carlos Bacca doubled the hosts’ lead just after the hour mark. Maxime Lestienne’s shot was heading wide until the Colombian timed his run to perfection before sticking out a boot and diverting the ball past a surprised Proto. It was a superb piece of instinctive improvisation from Belgium’s leading goalscorer.
Just when it appeared that Anderlecht were heading for their first league defeat since October, Massimo Bruno started the comeback. The youngster profited from a slice of fortune when his shot deflected off Oscar Duarte and past a helpless Vladan Kujovic. Van den Brom seized the initiative and threw Armenteros and De Zeeuw on for Deschacht and Kljestan while Garrido retreated somewhat, withdrawing Bacca and Lestienne for De Bock and Trickovski.
With less than five minutes of normal time remaining, De Zeeuw and Armenteros combined to devastating effect. The Dutch midfielder, whose passing range had already been in evidence, picked out the Swedish striker and he slid the ball under Kujovic for his first Anderlecht goal. The league leaders had come back from the dead to stun their bitter rivals in their own backyard.
That wasn’t quite the end of the drama as Bram Nuytinck was red carded late on for a professional foul on Trickovski but as against Standard, Anderlecht held on despite not having their full quota of eleven men.
I felt back in the summer that Anderlecht would become champions solely because van den Brom was an infinitely superior coach to Georges Leekens. Garrido came up with the ideal masterplan to stifle Anderlecht with Praet largely ineffective in the midfield battle but he lost his nerve towards the end. Fortune favoured the brave as Anderlecht went for the jugular but it’s undoubtedly a case of two dropped points for Blauw-Zwart.