JPL Round 7: Mitrovic makes mincemeat of Mechelen

Anderlecht 5-0 KV Mechelen
Club Brugge 4-1 Lierse
KV Kortrijk 3-0 KAA Gent
Lokeren 3-0 Cercle Brugge
Mons 1-1 Waasland-Beveren
OH Leuven 0-0 Charleroi

KV Oostende 2-4 Standard Liège
Racing Genk 5-2 Zulte Waregem

We previewed this week by saying that it was Anderlecht‘s final chance to ensure they’re in the best possible shape before they take on Benfica this Tuesday and they sent KV Mechelen boss Harm van Veldhoven home from his 250th Pro League game as a manager with his tail between his legs. Aleksandar Mitrovic underlined his quality with a first touch, which put the champions ahead after one Matias Suárez ball took three Mechelen defenders out of the game. Sacha Kljestan scored the second from a rebound after an audacious back flick from Suárez had hit the post. Credit must be paid to Malinwa who forced stand-in Sporting goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski into two excellent saves. The visitors’ front four were devastating throughout the game – the front two of Mitrovic and Suárez allied to the two wide men, Bruno and Acheampong who frequently drove infield.

Mitrovic's already fruitful strike partnership with Suárez does not bode well for Dennis Praet. Look out Benfica! (Photo: Anderlecht/Facebook)

Mitrovic’s already fruitful strike partnership with Suárez does not bode well for Dennis Praet. Look out Benfica! (Photo: Anderlecht/Facebook)

Acheampong is blessed with lightning pace, which he used to good effect for the third goal, flying down the left before Suárez weighted his ball to Mitrovic (already known as Mitrogoal à la his agent Jestrovic) who did the rest. Acheampong laid on a fourth for Suárez, who had the composure to take his time and place his finish beyond a beleaguered Biebauw before the Ghanaian Messi (as he was known in Thailand) notched up a deserved fifth late on. Mechelen at least limited the damage by defending deeper in the second half but some of the link-up play between Suárez and Mitrovic evoked memories of Jan Koller and Tomasz Radzinski all those years ago. Crucially, Anderlecht also kept a clean sheet with a new-look defence including N’Sakala at leftback and Chancel Mbemba in place of a visibly disgruntled but out-of-form Bram Nuytinck. Mechelen are no Benfica but at least les Mauve et Blanc will begin their Champions League campaign full of confidence.

Zulte Waregem were quick out of the blocks in the post-Berrier era as his successor Thorgan Hazard set up a second minute goal for Habib Habibou. After taking the ball up the middle, Hazard delivered an exquisite and beautifully weighted ball to the ex-Leeds man who guided it home past Racing Genk goalkeeper Köteles. Genk responded well and reached double figures in terms of chances in the opening 45. It was therefore little surprise when Mboyo equalised to ensure the sides went in level at the break ; the record signing on hand at the back post after good work from Vossen and Buffel. In a remarkably open game, both sides continued to attack and it was from the spot that Genk went ahead. Verboom brought Vossen down and Mboyo stepped up to send Bossut the wrong way and double his tally. Vossen marked his return to fitness with a brilliant header into the corner and added Genk’s fourth when Bossut was hopelessly caught out – both the captain’s goals were set up by Mboyo. Thorgan Hazard and then Julien Gorius scored from the spot with Junior Malanda sent off in stoppage time as Essevee were condemned to their first defeat this season. Dury’s men need to rediscover the defensive solidity they had before last season’s play-offs. One thing is for sure, it will be interesting to see how Mboyo/Vossen shape up compared to their equivalents at Anderlecht.

Belgium’s final representative in Europe, Standard Liège, maintained their 100 percent record with a win away to KV Oostende, whose hopes were dashed after they had become the first team to score against the league leaders this season. Eiji Kawashima spilled Canesin’s shot and Laurent Depoitre was on hand to put the rebound away. The visitors’ strikepower then began to power up and les Rouches had replied with three before the break, capitalising on some shoddy defending. Ezekiel controlled a long van Damme ball and was allowed to enter the box and score the equaliser. Batshuayi scored from close range after van Damme’s header had been saved before he notched his second with a controlled first time finish from Mujangi Bia’s cross. That third goal was too much for KVO coach Frederik Vanderbiest, who kicked out at a coolbox beside the bench. Batshuayi, who was battling the flu, secured the first hat-trick of his career from a very tight angle before Dessaer pulled one back right away with Standard on the beach. Mehdi Carcela was, regrettably, an unused substitute. De Kustboys were often all at sea at the back and they won’t get too far this season with such incompetence at the back for all their new high-profile acquisitions.

There were mixed fortunes on Saturday night for the league’s two Spanish coaches. Victor Fernandez’s KAA Gent crashed to a surprise 3-0 defeat in Kortrijk. The Guldensporenstadion pitch hadn’t taken the recent torrential rain particularly well but it didn’t stop the home side. Ivan Santini’s free header gave the home side the lead with the Croatian netting his sixth of the season. The lead was doubled when two loanees from Gent combined – Coulibaly’s header was saved by Boeckx only for the pocket rocket Benito Raman to fire the rebound home.  Boeckx and Gent were then embarrassed in stoppage time when De Buffalo’s goalkeeper vacated his penalty area but gave the ball straight to another ex-Gent man in Stijn De Smet, who calmly lifted the ball into the empty net from 35 yards.

Lokeren striker Hamdi Harbaoui was in superb touch against Cercle. (Photo: KSC Lokeren/Facebook)

Lokeren striker Hamdi Harbaoui was in superb touch against Cercle. (Photo: KSC Lokeren/Facebook)

Club Brugge‘s game with Lierse began on a sombre note as the fans paid tribute to former players Fernand Boone (the first Club player to win the Golden Shoe back in 1967) and Marek Spilar, who sadly took his own life. Lierse had already hit the post through Vercauteren before Maxime Lestienne headed his side into the lead just before half-time from Lior Refaelov’s exquisite cross. Bourabia pulled a goal back for Lierse after Jørgensen had extended Blauw-Zwart’s lead before we were treated to a late Lestienne-Tom De Sutter show, with 4-1 being harsh on Stanley Menzo’s men.

Mons failed to get the three points they desired as they drew 1-1 at home to a fellow winless side in Waasland-Beveren. Enzo Scifo’s men took a deserved lead when ex-Watford and Stevenage man Steve Beleck A’Beka fired home from 30 yards, rightly earning the applause of his boss. The visitors earned a point thanks to Robin Henkens’ deflected shot from range. At least Mons are now off the bottom while Scifo maintains he has not lost the dressing room. Lokeren swept Cercle Brugge aside without a problem. The impressive Tunisian striker Hamdi Harbaoui scored twice with two superb finishes ; both times he was set up by Hans Vanaken, who is one of the signings of the summer. Jordan Remacle had broken the deadlock with a deflected free kick and he’s rediscovered the form that made him such a hit for OH Leuven after spells with Gent and Waasland-Beveren. In the final game, OH Leuven and Charleroi cancelled each other out in a match that somewhat surprisingly finished 0-0.

The challenge now for the top teams is to be able to marry midweek European games to their league form. We wish all Belgium’s participants in Europe the very best of luck here at – Tous Ensemble!

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