JPL Round 3: Ezekiel’s Bolt from the blue and Belgium’s Super Strikers
Today saw Usain Bolt win the World Championship title that so dramatically eluded him back in 2011 when he ran the 100m in a time of just 9.77 seconds. It took Standard Liège barely a second longer to open the scoring in Genk when the dynamic Imoh Ezekiel lifted the ball beyond Köteles László to stun the home supporters. The Nigerian may be much more diminuitive than the seemingly invincible Jamaican sprinter but like the world’s fastest man, has more to his skill set than out-and-out speed. He scored his first league goal of the season and his curve is surely on an unstoppable upwards trend that should see him emulate his feat of the last campaign when he topped Standard’s goalscoring charts.
Genk have at least one top quality marksman of their own in the ranks in Jelle Vossen, who earlier in the week was joined by Ilombé Mboyo. Mario Been was understandably delighted that the board had decided to back him by breaking the Belgian transfer record and Genk’s healthy financial situation allied to a commitment to avoid squandering the money willy-nilly meant they were always going to be well placed should the opportunity arise to pull off such a coup. According to the amiable Been, Mboyo is a player who has impressed him ever since he arrived in Belgium and could form “a potentially lethal strike partnership” with Vossen. Not all of Belgium’s biggest moves have paid off – Boussoufa from Gent to Anderlecht was an unqualified success as opposed to Daerden from Genk to Club or Victor Ramos to Standard but I fancy Mboyo will prove to be a shrewd acquisition.
Mboyo began on the bench and came on to a warm reception with twenty minutes remaining. He was the width of the crossbar away from becoming an instant hero as Genk sought to turn their greater possession into an equaliser. Gorius was also denied by a fine stop from Kawashima. It could all have been so different had Laurent Ciman, who produced another outstanding long ball out of defence, which lead to the first goal, not cleared Vossen’s header off the line shortly after the opening goal. Despite Jelle van Damme’s late dismissal for dissent, Standard continued their 100% record under the expressive Guy Luzon as substitute Paul-José Mpoku blasted home a wonderful free kick in stoppage time. Fabien Camus, who is rather appropriately back playing à l’étranger after a spell in his native France, failed to have the same impact as a starter and Eiji Kawashima, so often the brunt of criticism last year and under pressure from Yohann Thuram-Ulien, is yet to concede in the league this season.
While the media rightly made capital out of the widespread unrest among Standard’s fans towards Roland Duchâtelet at the end of last season, the number of talented young players at the club (supplemented by experience including the returning Igor De Camargo) allied to a very strong commitment to youth means that Standard aren’t quite as far from cracking the code of success as the regime’s detractors would have you think. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part and an overreaction to a very good start to the season.
Elsewhere on Super Sunday, Zulte Waregem will argue they coped better with their European hangover than Club Brugge as Jens Naessens rescued a point with a 77th minute equaliser. Timmy Simons, sent off on his “second debut” for Blauw-Zwart, had earlier given the fans, with whom he is so popular, a timely reminder of his prowess from the penalty spot. Simons was 1.FC Nürnberg’s only ever-present in the Bundesliga last season, which is a testament to his consummate professionalism that makes him so admired by almost everyone. While PSV were expected to beat Essevee, who weren’t helped by having to play in Anderlecht, Club Brugge’s exit at the hands of Slask Wroclaw was an utter disgrace.
Anderlecht embarked upon a clinical demolition (4-1) of a KAA Gent side who had been on a high after Carlos Diogo’s last-gasp winner in their first league game at the brilliant new Ghelamco Arena. The reigning champions are evidence of the old saying telling us to “beware the wounded tiger” for they seem to be on a mission of taking out their frustration at the opening day defeat to Lokeren on whoever is unfortunate enough, by a quirk of the fixture computer, to stand in their way. Frank Acheampong’s goal was my personal highlight as he showed his ability to replicate his penchant for pacy, solo efforts at first-team level. Nicklas Pedersen’s consolation goal for De Buffalo’s will hopefully be the first of many as he fills Mboyo’s shoes.
A few other observations from the weekend – at home and abroad. KV Oostende were handed a baptism of fire with games against Club Brugge and Genk on their return to the Pro League but they secured their first point of the season in a 1-1 draw with OH Leuven while Kortrijk and Lokeren played out a thoroughly entertaining 3-3 draw on a Friday night dominated by the resumption of the Bundesliga and Ligue 1. In Croatian hat-trick hero Ivan Santini, Hein Vanhaezebrouck has found the cutting edge in attack he had been looking for.
It was also a weekend on which three young Belgians made strides forward in their budding careers. Under-19 international Divock Origi scored Lille’s only goal in a 1-0 win at home to Lorient while Adnan Januzaj made a brief appearance for Manchester United in the Community Shield, which follows on from an encouraging pre-season. However, it was PSV striker Zakaria Bakkali who stole the show with a virtuoso hat-trick against NEC, which was a highlights package all by itself.
Results KV Kortrijk 3-3 Lokeren, KV Oostende 1-1 OH Leuven, Lierse 1-1 Cercle Brugge, Mons 1-2 Charleroi, Waasland-Beveren 0-0 KV Mechelen, Club Brugge 1-1 Zulte Waregem, Anderlecht 4-1 KAA Gent, Racing Genk 0-2 Standard Liège.