Anderlecht 3-0 Lokeren: The champions return to form in style
As it turned out, the more pessimistic among the Anderlecht fans no longer had to contemplate the consequences of more dropped points as the champions won 3-0 against Lokeren, never giving their opponents a sniff throughout. They now move four points clear at the top.
John van den Brom may be a self-proclaimed disciple of 4-3-3 but he once again showed his willingness to play two strikers following the excellent link-up play of De Sutter and Mbokani at the weekend. Massimo Bruno and Milan Jovanovic occupied the flanks while Marcin Wasilewski replaced the suspended Denis Odoi at rightback.
The home crowd were in good spirits as their former Argentine striker Nicolas Frutos was on hand to perform the ceremonial kick-off, which is Belgium’s equivalent of the first pitch in Major League Baseball. It wasn’t long before they were celebrating the first goal of the evening as the deadlock was broken inside five minutes.
Bruno bided his time down the right and waited for the right moment to cross. The Belgian under-21 international found Jovanovic in the centre and the Serb, whom I grudgingly admit has had a lot to answer for in recent times, headed authoritatively beyond Copa in the Lokeren goal. It was just the tonic Anderlecht required in the early stages.
Anderlecht, so often plagued by nervousness and caution in 2013, were liberated by the lead and began to dominate Lokeren to such an extent that the side from Oost-Vlaandren were barely able to breathe. Deschacht found Mbokani, whose header was well tipped over by Copa. Moments later and from the resulting corner, the experienced Ivorian goalkeeper produced an even better stop to his right to deny Anderlecht’s leading goalscorer once more.
The lead was doubled on the half-hour with a team goal that had van den Brom purring on the touchline. Mbokani flicked Biglia’s pass into the path of Jovanovic, who picked out the salmon-like leap of Tom De Sutter at the far post and the likeable striker headed home. Not even Copa could stem the tide now.
Anderlecht added the icing on the cake with what turned out to be the final goal of the game. Sacha Kljestan, who continues to curry favour with van den Brom and maintain a spot in the heart of midfield, scored a rare goal but one he will treasure for a long time. The amiable American scored from distance with a perfectly placed strike, which found the net via the underside of the crossbar.
Anderlecht went into the break 3-0 up and in total control. Only Dutra was providing any kind of creative outlet for a very much overpowered and overwhelmed Lokeren outfit.
Just when it seemed nothing could go wrong tonight, Oli Deschacht was sent off seconds after the resumption. The former club captain lunged in on Lokeren substitute Jore Trompet and though Deschacht made contact with the ball, his follow-through onto the shin of the youngster was deemed to be dangerous play. Deschacht had never been sent off before this season and he was in tears after his first (and undeserved) red in Gent, as he had prided himself on never having been dismissed in his career. Both sides will argue their case on this decision but it was not a surprising decision given events in Liège 24 hours ago.
Even with one man more, Lokeren struggled to make any headway. The game petered out into a comfortable win for the hosts, who were able to bring on Demy De Zeeuw and Matias Suarez – it was a show of strength from an Anderlecht side who could not have been written off whatever tonight’s outcome due in no small part to the wealth of talent they have at their disposal. For Peter Maes’ men, they undoubtedly deserve their place in PO1 but so far, it has proved to be a step too far. There will be no such worries for some very satisfied supporters across the land tonight for the champions are back and in style.
PO1: Anderlecht 39, Standard Liège 35, Racing Genk 35, Zulte Waregem* 34, Club Brugge* 31, Lokeren 27
*denotes a game in hand.