Club Brugge do enough to stay top of the league

Club Brugge kept their two point advantage over Gent thanks to a come-from-behind victory over Standard Liège in a hotly contested match at the Jan Breydelstadion.

Alexandre Boucaut didn’t stand a cat in hells chance of keeping order in this first round clash in a play off system which, despite its faults, seems to see teams throw caution to the wind as they look for the all important victories against their rivals so they can cement themselves at the top of the ladder. The old addage goes, ‘to be the best, you have to beat the best’ and that’s exactly what the Belgian Pro League forces teams to do in their play off system.

Boucaut’s biggest issue seemed to be his inconsistency with his calls. To the point that he so often gave one decision and then didn’t give the next that both teams seemed to feel unfairly treated by the referee. Mehdi Carcela lamented on social media about a lack of protection he felt was not afforded to him while certain opposition players could probably bemoan the same thing.

Michiel Preud’homme and Jose Riga were probably still shaking hands when Adrian Trebel beat Mat Ryan to the ball to give Standard a 1-0 lead after just 70 seconds that stunned the home team. The early goal was the best thing that could have happened for the fixture as Club Brugge, backed vociferously by their fans, started swinging haymakers in response while Standard opted to start time wasting inside five minutes.

That these two teams don’t like each other is no new idea and their dislike of each other is probably only trumped by their dislike of Anderlecht.

Despite having no Victor Vazquez, Felipe Gedoz, Bjorn Engels, Thomas Meunier or Oscar Duarte Club Brugge stilled fielded a stronger starting eleven than Standard paying testament to their fantastic strength in depth. Standard had Eyong Enoh, Adrian Trebel and Julien De Sart in their centre of midfield and with Trebel’s early goal it seemed that the Standard trio had the better of Claudemir, Timmy Simons and Ruud Vormer of the opposition.

Just before half time Julien De Sart would almost make it two, losing his man and inexplicably heading wide and then seconds later Enoh would dive in recklessly, two footed and dangerous to concede a penalty. It was the full set as Trebel’s good work was undone by a sloppy tackle from Enoh, a mistake a 29-year-old former Eredivisie champion should not be making.

Lior Refaelov, who was on the bench in Israel’s 1-0 loss to Belgium last week, sent Thuram the wrong way on the penalty and all of Club Brugge’s pressure had finally paid off as they were back level.

The second half saw more of the same, Boucaut struggling to keep a lid on it while Adrian Trebel, usually a reliable screening midfielder had somehow transformed into a DIY extraordinaire as he relentlessly hauled Standard forward. Mujangi Bia and Mehdi Carcela continued where many Standard forwards have found themselves in the past, dazzling quick and profligate with their chances to a point Igor De Camargo probably wonders what the point of taking up a position inside the box is.

There was a certain inevitability about the second penalty. There was no way the drama could have been over and Darwin Andrade’s trailing arm as he slid in was the culprit, awarding Refaelov another shot at making himself a hero. The Israeli has been a talisman for Club Brugge this season, he and Victor Vazquez the all seeing playmakers of an exciting Club Brugge team and despite Thuram getting a hand to this penalty it was too powerful and with it Club Brugge were 2-1 ahead.

Obbi Oulare, the latest Belgian sensation, had a great opportunity to make it 3-1 in injury time. With his oxen strength and his deceptive pace he found himself one-on-one with Thuram but dragged his shot narrowly wide after Boli Bolingoli had put him through.

That Club Brugge could bring on Victor Vazquez, two weeks ahead of schedule, and finish the match with Vazquez, Bolingoli, Oulare and Refaelov all on the pitch while affording Izquierdo and De Sutter chances to rest up shows why Club Brugge are so capable on three title fronts this season.

For Standard, the season may not be over, and they will be pushing for European football next season – worthy of it inspite of their sluggish start to the season. Is Jose Riga the man to take this club to the next level? Probably not but Roland Duchâtelet’s spiderweb of football is a whole different article.

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