Dessers dents Anderlecht’s hopes of Champions League football
Racing Genk still had a real chance for the title, although they absolutely had to take the three points home on Saturday night to put pressure on Club Brugge.
Genk had learned from their underperformance three days earlier against the same opponent. With a more eager appearance in Anderlecht, their strong start was rewarded in the 16th minute.
Youngster Killian Sardella put his defence in danger with a critical mistake. Bart Verbruggen was able to deny Theo Bongonda’s shot, but the inevitable Paul Onuachu was clincial and scored his 33rd goal of the season with an instinctive reaction on the rebound. It was his seventh goal in as many games.
Anderlecht responded well but were unable to create many opportunities.Until the Mauves also got a helping hand in the 31st minute.
After a mix-up at the back, Lukas Nmecha hammered a shot into the top scorer to equalise. One chance, one goal for Anderlecht.
Genk might have been happy with one point three days ago, but Vincent Kompany will have drawn the same conclusion for Anderlecht after this first half at the Lotto Park.
After the break, Genk increased the pressure. Anderlecht looked like they were going to crack sooner or later. Just when you thought this was going to end in a draw again, substitute Cyriel Dessers jumped higher than everyone else from Theo Bongonda’s free-kick. With a clinical header, Genk took the lead with only four minutes remaining.
The late winner for Genk was a sucker-punch for Anderlecht who remain below Antwerp on goal difference at the bottom of the Championship play-off group with two games remaining.
Club Brugge can almost taste the league title after its first win in the Champions’ play-offs
Club Brugge then had to respond after Saturday’s victory of Racing Genk against Anderlecht. As a result, the difference between the Genk and Club was suddenly only two points. Brugge had to win against Antwerp if they wanted to go into the last week of the playoffs with a comfortable feeling.
— Club Brugge KV (@ClubBrugge) May 16, 2021
Just like we could see on Thursday night, Club Brugge versus Antwerp is always a loaded encounter with a lot of challenges and fouls.
This time, however, there were also chances on both sides, although in the opening phase, Antwerp got no further than a few half-chances via the head of Dieumerci Mbokani.
After a better and more eager start by Antwerp, Club Brugge gradually restored the balance. Club pushed the visitors back at times and created some small chances. At the end of the first half, Mats Rits aimed his first real chance just over the crossbar, a bit later Bas Dost made the wrong choice by passing instead of finishing himself.
The game continued to drift along, without any real big chances. On the hour, finally a breakthrough. After a nice combination between Bas Dost and Charles De Ketelaere, the latter found the net on his second attempt. A huge relief and a deserved lead for Club Brugge.
However, they were barely done celebrating when Antwerp scored on the other side of the pitch with their first chance. In the 62nd minute, Jordan Lukaku’s low cross was expertly slid into the goal by Dieumerci Mbokani to level things up.
At the end of six sensational minutes, the home team was awarded a penalty kick when Jean Butez pulled down Noa Lang.
Substitute Hans Vanaken stepped up and scored his fifth penalty of the season to make it 2-1. In the final quarter of the game, Antwerp set the pace, and Club Brugge were playing on the counter-attack. Brugge held on to secure their first victory in the playoffs.
What does it mean?
With 10 points out of 12, Genk still believe they can win the title but they are running out of games as they trail by five points. Club Brugge are on the brink and need just one win to secure the title. Even a draw for Brugge on Thursday at Anderlecht (21:00 CET) could be sufficient for the title.
Genk play on the same night at 18:30 CET against Antwerp. If Genk don’t win that game, Club could already call themselves champions. Anderlecht are competing for third place with Antwerp after the loss on Saturday night.
Featured image: Charles de Ketelaere of Club Brugge celebrates after scoring during the Belgium Pro League match between Club Brugge and Royal Antwerp FC (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/BSR Agency/Getty Images)