Five things we learned from the Jupiler Pro League – Matchday 14
Standard – kings of the grind (Chris Mayer)
Guy Luzon’s runaway start as Standard boss has quickly disappeared, following poor results in the Europa League due to his insistence on squad rotation plus a blip in the league. The Israeli knew that winning at the Ghelamco Arena was an absolute must, especially against a Gent side who haven’t picked up a league win since the end of August. Sunday’s game wasn’t full of champagne football by any stretch of the imagination, but proved to be a intriguing contest, and not just because former Standard coach Mircea Rednic was in the opposite dugout.
Les Rouches were much the better side in the first half, but couldn’t find too many chances. Their one glaring opportunity came courtesy of Sergio Padt’s mad dash to take out Imoh Ezekiel, who was only booked for his recklessness. Fortunately for Gent, Paul Jose Mpoku slammed his penalty against the upright. Luzon clearly gave some words of inspiration at the break, as Standard finally got a grip on the game. Michy Batshuayi finished excellently in the 54th minute, ghosting past a few defenders before firing into the top corner for his 9th league goal of the season. Gent still pressed for an equaliser, with Nicklas Pedersen crashing a volley against the bar. But Standard held on to record their first in seven games, thanks to a little bit of luck – something they will need in abundance should they continue to lead the way into the playoffs.
Mircea Rednic, the coach who even rotates more than Guy Luzon (Bjorn de Cock)
Mircea Rednic surprises us every week with a totally different formation. First he moved Frank Boeckx to the bench to give Sergio Padt a chance after his injury, what is a good move in my eyes. But most of all it surprises me that Rednic is a big fan of Rodgers Kola. Most of the Jupiler Pro League fans will remember him as the man who almost ended Laurens De Bock’s career with a terrible challenge. Finally, he got suspended for 8 matches. To be honest, Rednic doesn’t have a lot alternatives with Sloan Privat still integrating into the first XI and Pedersen being very injury prone.
Hannes van der Bruggen almost went to KV Kortrijk after Michel Louwagie and Ivan De Witte tried to sign Brecht Dejaegere. The president and the manager of KAA Gent wanted to use van der Bruggen as a makeweight to lower the price on Dejaegere. Quite unbelievable after he was one of the few players who did good last season. After being in the stands last week, Rednic put him back on the bench and even gave him playing time against Standard Liège. The former coach of Standard Liège brought him on for… Brecht Dejaegere of course.
The Gent coach still needs some time to find his best formation but against Standard Liège KAA Gent showed some improvement. Some important weeks are coming for La Gantoise with games against Sporting Charleroi, Waasland-Beveren and KV Mechelen – teams they really need to beat if they want to climb the ladder.
Anderlecht back in the race? (Luke Harvey)
Anderlecht did everything they could to ensure their title push got back on track with comprehensive wins against strugglers KV Oostende and OH Leuven but with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s PSG looming large, things will be tested even further this week.
Alexander Mitrovic has scored three of Anderlecht’s six goals in the past two games and is looking like good value for money after his summer switch.Scoring against poor teams in the league is one thing, proving it against the very best is another.
Anderlecht’s 5-0 defeat in their last Champions League encounter with the French giants was a blow. They have been rocked by inconsistency for months now and the defeat only compounded their misery. No one expected them to get anything out of their two matches, but after their first performance this second match will test their pride and mettle as much as their ability. The two teams don’t match up; while Anderlecht may be the wealthiest of the Belgian clubs, their riches does not even figure as a drop in the ocean compared to PSG’s outlay. But with an expectant fanbase behind them, all the money issues are put aside as the two sides do battle on the night.
Anderlecht will not be as vociferously supported as usual with several supporters federations opting not to travel to Paris due to fears for their safety and a lack of protection they will be given, but the expectations will still be high for Les Mauves to perform to an acceptable level.
The two wins has given John van den Brom a reprieve following a tough few weeks, but it may prove that their match with PSG reopens some recently healed wounds. Should Anderlecht put in another anonymous performance and concede a handful of goals, the spotlight will immediately be back on the head coach by the end of the night. Genk will await Anderlecht at the end of the week and they will not be as easy to push over as Oostende and OH Leuven were.
Michel Preud’homme started his mission impossible (Bjorn De Cock)
At the beginning of the season Club Brugge were a big question for us analysts and journalists. To be honest, nobody really knew who was going to be the leading contender this season. Club Brugge sold Ryan Donk and gave faith to their youngsters Bolingoli, Mechele and Engels. Mechele and Engels have done well so far, Bolingoli probably needs another year switching between the U21 and the A-squad before becoming a full member of the first team. Bart Verhaeghe and Vincent Mannaert were hoping on a fabulous Maxime Lestienne, Victor Vazquez and Vadis Odjidja hitting their best form. We can conclude after the beginning of the season that Club Brugge made one bit of good business, signing Mathew Ryan. The Australian goalkeeper is one of the best this season and has already saved a lot of points for his new club.
Besides Lestienne and Ryan things didn’t go as expected. President Bart Verhaeghe had the option to sign Michel Preud’homme and didn’t need long to think about that. Club Brugge sacked Juan Carlos Garrido and have placed all their hope on Preud’homme. His early games haven’t gone so well, with a lot of red cards for his players and losing more games than winning. By defeating from Sporting Lokeren this weekend, who were in a great form lately, Club Brugge hope this is the start of a long winning streak. Only one problem – next week they have to play against Standard Liège in Sclessin. Another important issue for Club Brugge is whether they aren’t too dependent on Maxime Lestienne – his last goal came in September and he could be flagging.
Watt are you playing at ref? (Chris Mayer)
Celtic loanee Tony Watt’s spell in Belgium has been a peculiar one, mostly making cameos from the bench so far. In fact, it took him 92 seconds to make an impact against Kortrijk, scoring with his second touch. Despite scoring Lierse boss Stanley Menzo lambasted Watt at full-time for not following his tactical instructions, and has faced the wrath of his boss ever since, with Menzo claiming he is unfit and lazy.
Regardless, he brought Watt on against Charleroi expecting him to make a similar impression as he did back in September, but after just 21 seconds, Watt was sent packing by Christof Virant. Watt tussled with Ederson and stuck his arm out and the Brazlian went to ground holding his face rather dramatically. The referee, clearly acting on instinct, produced the red card to a stunned Watt and his teammates. It’s another case of shoddy refereeing in the Jupiler Pro League, with the referee making a call on what he believed he saw rather than what he actually did. Despite rumours on Twitter flying round (probably created by Rangers fans) that Watt punched an opposition player, the youngster can feel hard done by for his expulsion here, with his eagerness from the bench ultimately costing him. Not that it mattered for Lierse; minutes later, Samir Farag’s free-kick put the 10 men up and gave them a big win over Les Zebres.