Club Brugge 3-4 Zulte Waregem: Leye scores three as Essevee survive a late rally
Zulte Waregem showed they remain a force to be reckoned with in PO1 but they were made to sweat towards the end of a breathtaking encounter, which ended 4-3 to the visitors. It was just their second win away to Club with the first having come earlier in the season just before Georges Leekens received his P45. Mbaye Leye scored three magnificent goals in what surely goes down as the best game of his career.
After an uneventful opening to the game, Zulte Waregem struck in the thirteenth minute. Davy De fauw played what should have been an innocous ball down the middle. However, it exposed a gaping hole at the heart of Club Brugge’s defence and Mbaye Leye was clear. He composed himself and decided to shoot early, finding the top corner with a powerful strike from outside the area, which gave Vladan Kujovic no chance.
Ten minutes later, Club Brugge lost popular defender Fredrik Stenman to yet another injury. The Swede had already been a doubt with a lower back problem but this time it was a dislocated shoulder, which forced him from the field. Victor Vázquez was his replacement, meaning Donk dropped back into the back four. With Jim Larsen out, Almebäck out of favour, De Bock suspended and Høgli and Hoefkens failing to convince, it was not exactly what Garrido needed.
However, Club Brugge began to create goalscoring opportunities. Refaelov’s cross was headed tamely at goal by Lestienne before Vázquez tested out Bruzzese with a low free kick, which was bent around the wall and well beaten away by Sammy Bossut’s deputy. The goal the hosts’ efforts deserved came nine minutes before the break. Ryan Donk headed home a captain’s goal following a beautifully delivered corner from Lestienne.
Zulte Waregem were not about to give way and they retook the lead shortly before half-time. Berrier chased an overhit ball and retrieved it for Ibrahima Conte, who found Leye. The Essevee striker laid the ball off to Franck Berrier who curled the ball first time into the net beyond an off-balance Kujovic. If not quite as spectacular as their opening goal against Standard, it was nonetheless further evidence of how cohesive an attacking unit they can be.
Conte should have scored eight minutes into the second period when he rounded Kujovic only for his shot to lack the requisite power. Steve Colpaert then slid in to deny Bacca and Zulte Waregem extended their lead soon after. Leye’s first touch took him away from Meunier and he then shrugged off Duarte before unleashing another unstoppable strike past Kujovic.
Eidur Gudjohnsen was again an unhappy camper when he was substituted on the hour but Club remained a danger, with Bruzzese doing well to deny Lestienne. Club Brugge looked dead and buried though when Leye added his third on 72 minutes. Conte played the ex-Standard man through and he lifted the ball over Kujovic, who it must be said could perhaps have done better. Some of the home supporters saw no way back and headed for the exists. They were wrong to give up on their side so easily.
Jesper Jørgensen, almost the forgotten man in Brugge, headed home Lestienne’s cutback from close range as Zulte Waregem began to come under sustained pressure from the home side, who could barely sink any further. Four minutes from the end, the resurgent Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe made room 25 yards out and drove the ball past a helpless Bruzzese. Not only did this game bring tension and excitement, it had its fair share of aesthetically pleasing goals to boot. Zulte Waregem saw the Standard game (where they also blew a 3-1 lead) flash before them but they held on thanks to a wonderful reflex stop from Bruzzese to foil Lestienne at the death.
PO1 after 4 games: Anderlecht 39, Zulte Waregem 37, Standard Liège 35, Racing Genk 35, Club Brugge 31, Lokeren 27.