Anderlecht 1-1 Club Brugge: Mbokani scores on his return as PO1 comes alive.
In a pulsating encounter, which swung one way and then the other, Anderlecht were grateful to the returning Dieumerci Mbokani who rescued a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Club Brugge. It was finally the level of game, which we have become entitled to expect in PO1 after a series of underwhelming disappointments.
The first chance of the game fell to Club. Maxime Lestienne was in acres of space tries on the left and instead of drilling his shot, he opted to lift it over Proto but he put too much purchase on the ball. Anderlecht’s best opportunity early on came when Lucas Biglia played Mbokani through but makeshift rightback Thomas Meunier denied the striker with a superbly timed sliding challenge inside the box, which in no way betrayed his lack of experience in the back four.
Club Brugge were clearly the better side with Biglia and Kljestan unable to get a grip of the visitors’ midfield. A lovely one-two from Bacca and Gudjohnsen exposed Anderlecht at the back only for the latter to Gudjohnsen place his shot narrowly wide of the far post. Such quick combinations are a hallmark of Blauw-Zwart at their best. Bacca was again involved when his shot was stopped by Proto after Kouyaté failed to cut out a low cross from De Bock.
Anderlecht were not let off the hook a third time and Club Brugge opened their account just before the half-hour. Once more, Kouyaté missed his interception and in trying to prevent Bacca from scoring, Denis Odoi slid the ball past a helpless Proto and into his own net. It was no more than the away team deserved.
The chances kept coming. Bacca nutmegged Kouyaté before leaving him for dead. The Colombian international squared the ball for Lestienne, who with the goal at his mercy, seemed to be put off by the presence of Proto and sliced wide when he should have doubled Club’s lead. It got worse for Anderlecht when they went down to ten men. Before Bacca could latch on to Vázquez’s through ball, he was tripped by the unfortunate Odoi, who was rightly sent from the field. With Gillet set to return and Vanden Borre attempting a renaissance, it may well be the utility man’s final appearance in an Anderlecht shirt.
Praet made way for Wasilewski and it was with great relief that the hosts went into the break just a goal down with Kljestan admitting that the visitors had been afforded too much room, not that it should serve an an excuse for the alarming individual errors committed by Odoi and Kouyaté.
John van den Brom has shown already this season he’s capable of changing the game with a substitution and Tom De Sutter came on for Suarez, to the surprise of some. Anderlecht had a valid shout for a spot kick early in the second period when Donk hesitated and then in trying to clear, kicked Mbokani hard in the stomach but Johan Verbist declined to award even a penalty, never mind a card. Chances continued to come at both ends. Mbokani shot wide after De Sutter had helped the ball on and Proto allowed Lestienne’s shot to ricochet between his legs only to breath a sigh of relief when it rolled against the post.
Anderlecht’s equaliser was quite literally a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man. The stage had been set for Mbokani to score on his return and he just about kept his balance for long enough to brilliantly head Biglia’s corner past Kujovic. Although the goal came from a corner, it was clear that De Sutter’s partnership with Mbokani had succeeded in shifting the momentum of the match in Anderlecht’s favour.
Both coaches continued to use their options on the bench with Gudjohnsen demonstrably unhappy at his withdrawal but he, like his team, had begun to fade. Club weren’t committing enough players into goalscoring areas and Anderlecht were refusing to lie down. Laurens De Bock picked up his third red card of the season (and his second for Club Brugge) seven minutes from time for a soft foul on Kljestan to further pile the pressure on the visitors.
Incredible though it may have seemed after 45 minutes, it was Club Brugge who held on for a point. Kouyaté headed a Biglia free kick straight at Kujovic with no-one within five yards of him and Mbokani correctly saw a goal chalked off for offside. For the second successive clash between these sides, Club Brugge will be scratching their heads and asking how they failed to win but credit to Anderlecht, who fought like cornered tigers and refuse to relinquish their title easily. As during this game, there’s barely any time to breathe with all six teams in action this midweek. Just five points now separate the top five. Perhaps now Belgium can lay claim to having the best title race in Europe.
PO1: Anderlecht 36, Racing Genk 35, Zulte Waregem 34, Standard Liège 32, Club Brugge 31, Lokeren 27.