Cercle Brugge, Belgium’s bottom side, dashed Kortrijk’s hopes of making consecutive Belgian Cup finals with a surprise 2-1 away win in the first leg. Foeke Booy’s men stopped the rot after six straight league defeats and gained a huge confidence boost ahead of the upcoming Play-Off 3 series of games.
Kortrijk coach Hein Vanhaezebrouck continued his policy of picking his second choice goalkeeper in the cup with Rémi Pillot deputising for Darren Keet while Thomas Matton began on the right. Foeke Booy was forced into bringing Joey Godee into the team for the injured Rudy.
The match got underway on a terrible surface, which was clearly substandard for two top flight sides. However, given that this was the third attempt to play the fixture, both sides were just happy to get the ball rolling.
De Kerels got off to a flying start, scoring after three minutes. In what would become a feature of the game, Mustapha Oussalah had the freedom of the left flank. His low cross was converted by the outstretched Pablo Chavarria, playing in the lone striking role. Chavarria often plays out wide but there is a great deal of merit in picking by far the most dangerous goalscoring threat up the middle.
Cercle did not wither however and they equalised just before the half hour. Mushaga Bakenga capitalised on a mix-up between Stefan Mitrovic and Oussalah to square the ball to Joey Godee. The Dutchman’s shot was parried out by Pillot to Kristof D’Haene who put the rebound away despite the best efforts of Kortrijk’s goalkeeper.
The game then became a more even contest, a trend, which continued after the break when Groen-Zwart took a surprise lead after the hour. A mammoth goal kick from Jo Coppens was missed by Mitrovic, allowing Uchebo to square the ball for Bakenga to finish into the empty net from close range.
Never the most free scoring of sides in the Pro League, Kortrijk were unable to create any clear-cut goalscoring opportunities as they showed a lack of cohesion in the final third, to the frustration of the supporters. The return leg is scheduled for 27 March in the Jan Breydelstadion. Cercle’s priority remains staying up but after this result, European football next year remains a distinct possibility.