Club Brugge 0-2 Standard Liège: Smash and grab from les Rouches
Standard Liège pulled off a surprise but deserved win away to Club Brugge to begin PO1 in the best possible fashion. Goals from Michy Batshuayi and Yoni Buyens before the break secured the win in a scrappy game, which won’t have many neutrals flocking to watch these play-offs.
Juan Carlos Garrido chose Ivan Trickovski in place of the injured Lior Refaelov while Vadis Odjidja returned to midfield after suspension, meaning Enoch Adu dropped to the bench. Mircea Rednic turned out to be bluffing when he said he’d play one striker as Ezekiel and Batshuayi were once again paired together in attack, while Opare and Diabaté occupied the fullback slots.
The disjointed nature of the beginning of the game was to set the tone for the early afternoon game. It was punctuated with lots of niggly fouls and neither side were able to find any sort of rhythm, not that it bothered Standard in the slightest as the visitors and the side not expected to win. Club Brugge were to rue top scorer Carlos Bacca striking the post in the opening 15 minutes with a deft dink over Kawashima.
That had been the only real opening until just after the half hour when Standard took the lead. Club were caught unawares from a Standard set-piece, which was beautifully chested down by Imoh Ezekiel. The Nigerian gave the ball to fellow striker Michy Batshuayi, who took one touch and clinically hammered the ball home.
Apart from when a Vadis corner surprised Kawashima, Club Brugge were inspirid and toothless going forward and Standard took advantage on the stroke of half-time. Opare was not picked up down the right and his left-footed cross to the near post was glanced in by the continually underrated Yoni Buyens.
With more of the same following the resumption, Garrido had had enough and decided to go for the jugular. He made a triple substitution eight minutes into the second period, introducing Gudjohnsen, Tchité and Meunier for Vázquez, Trickovski and Høgli, who had sustained a knock.
Unfortunately for Club Brugge, the changes didn’t just fail to have the desired effect, they had none at all! It was at times an ill-tempered clash with Bacca being booked for a show of petulance towards Mpoku and Standard happy to switch to one upfront and sit on their two-goal cushion. Bacca also kicked out at Ciman in an incident, which will surely be looked at by the disciplinary committee.
Les Rouches really should have won by a bigger margin in the end as Adjarevic and Nagai missed very presentable opportunities to extend the lead. When the final whistle brought an end to a game that was anything but the spectacle PO1 is supposed to deliver, Standard boss Rednic clenched both fists in celebration while Garrido cut a sorry and surprised figure.
Standard had pulled off an interesting tactical feat by making Club Brugge play like they had been before the play-offs. Club Brugge had almost two thirds of possession but rarely looked like scoring. None of their combinations in attack worked and for a side, who still have an outside shot at the title, their temperament was found wanting. The visitors on the other hand are more suited to not taking the game to their opponents and using their pace on the counter but today their defensive organisation was very impressive.
Like the Zulte Waregem-Lokeren clash on Saturday, which ended 1-1, this game was below even modest expectations. Standard go third for the time being and they can now relax as Anderlecht take on Genk later today. Club Brugge have a lot of work to do ahead of Friday’s meeting with Lokeren. They will need their captain Ryan Donk, who was a shadow of the player who shone, albeit against Lierse, to lead the way.