Anderlecht 0-1 Zulte Waregem: Franck Berrier’s goal gives Belgium a title race!
Franck Berrier’s 72nd minute goal was enough to give Zulte Waregem an historic maiden win away to league leaders Anderlecht. The sensational result puts Francky Dury’s men six points behind the champions with a game in hand to come on Sunday against Charleroi with the top six having their points halved for the play-offs. It was Anderlecht’s first defeat in the league since October and their first home defeat in the league since April.
Dury had to make do without the injured Bryan Verboom and more crucially the suspended Mbaye Leye and Junior Malanda. Anderlecht were missing Bram Nuytinck, Demy De Zeeuw and Samuel Armenteros from their 2-2 draw in Brugge but nevertheless began as overwhelming favourites.
It was well documented how Club Brugge looked to make the most of the space in behind Anderlecht’s defence and that’s how Zulte Waregem created the first real chance of the game. Jens Naessens got in behind Kouyaté but was denied by a good stop from Silvio Proto.
The home side had more of the ball early on with Dieumerci Mbokani able to drop into the space in front of the defence and bring others into play but a Praet header aside, they were restricted to long-range shots. Zulte Waregem’s two central midfielders were stationed too far in front of the defence, giving acres of room to Anderlecht’s midfield and little protection to a back four missing Bryan Verboom.
Unfortunately, the rest of the first half proved to be very sloppy and ill befitting a clash between the top two in the league. Both sides were giving the ball away rather easily and lacked in cohesion going forward.
Thankfully, things moved up a gear after the break. John van den Brom decided to bring on supersub Sasha Iakovenko in place of Dennis Praet, who while having a few attempts on goal again failed to exert the kind of influence in a big game he would have wished to.
Golden Shoe winner Dieumerci Mbokani had a low shot saved by Bossut before Berrier latched on to a mislaid pass from Oli Deschacht but the playmaker dithered too long and was robbed by Gillet. Mbokani was starting to cause problems with his aerial ability while Zulte Waregem sought to catch Anderlecht on the counter.
The visitors began to grow into the game and fired off a few warning signs. An unmarked and ever more dangerous Thorgan Hazard shot straight at Proto and Delaplace should have punished Anderlecht on the counter but his pass was too weak. Trajkovski then had the ball in the net but much to Anderlecht’s relief, the Macedonian was inches offside.
Anderlecht then suffered the sucker punch on 71 minutes as Essevee capitalised on their high line. Thorgan Hazard slipped the ball through to Naessens whose ball took a rather kind deflection off Gillet and into the path of Berrier, who slotted home into the empty net to send the small group of travelling fans into raptures.
Van den Brom reacted immediately by throwing Tom De Sutter on to provide extra striking power. A tiring Hazard had to come off for Ivan Lendric and Anderlecht began to go for it, as they had on Sunday in Brugge.
Disappointingly for the hosts, the best chances at the end fell to Deschacht – first he fired wide from Bossut’s punch and then he was denied by a stunning save from the Zulte Waregem goalkeeper, who dived to his right to keep his side’s lead intact. Zulte Waregem held on for a famous win and completed the treble of winning away at Anderlecht, Standard Liège and Club Brugge in the same season.