Lokeren 0-0 Racing Genk: Köteles earns Genk a point

After a most underwhelming start to the second half of PO1, Racing Genk did at least avoid a third straight defeat as they drew 0-0 away to Lokeren. The visitors, who were well beaten by both Standard and Club Brugge, were grateful to Köteles László, who kept Lokeren at bay.

Koen Persoons marked his 200th top flight appearance and was applauded on to the field of play before the kick off. He returned to the side after suspension while there was also a starting berth for Walter on the flank. As I said last week, the overall balance of Genk’s starting eleven has been a touch defensive and Mario Been’s attempt at rectifying this saw Glynor Plet being chosen to partner Jelle Vossen in attack with Gorius and Hyland together in midfield.

Köteles László saves from Hamdi Harbaoui.

Köteles László saves from Hamdi Harbaoui.

Lokeren were more comfortable in the opening exchanges. Hamdi Harbaoui, who showed his quality in last week’s surprise win over Standard, had a goal ruled out for offside in the eighth minute. The Tunisian striker strayed just behind the last defender before converting Mokulu’s low cross.

Genk had their first real chance shortly after when Copa saved from Monrose but though the visitors gradually improved over the course of the opening 45, it remained a rather dull affair. Plet had the best chance of the first half just before the half hour. Another Monrose shot was parried away by Copa but this time into the path of Plet, who was far too nonchalant and with the goal gaping, he was unable to lift the ball over the despairing challenge of Mijat Maric, who saved the day for Lokeren.

Hassan El Mouataz, who kept his spot at leftback ahead of the young Alexander Corryn, tried to inject some life into proceedings but his spectacular effort from long distance was always curving away from goal. 0-0 was a fitting scoreline at the break and though there were no changes in personnel at the break, coaches and fans alike hoped for a much better second period.

Köteles saves Genk's bacon once more as Lokeren created more clear cut opportunities.

Köteles saves Genk’s bacon once more as Lokeren created more clear cut opportunities.

The opening 20 minutes of the second half brought little respite from the lack of incisiveness and genuine quality on show. Mario Been withdrew Gorius to bring on Kumordzi but it was the introduction of Nill De Pauw, which had more of an impact. The former Belgian u21 international found himself in space down the right and cut the ball back to Harbaoui, whose shot from close range was beaten away by Köteles.

Benjamin Mokulu, who also scored in last week’s victory, headed wide when Koulibaly failed to clear his lines from a Lokeren free kick but clear cut chances remained few and far between. Genk called on Elyaniv Barda from the bench after supersub Plet failed to make the desired impression from the start, having earlier missed a sitter. De Pauw remained a threat and when he cleverly lifted the ball into the feet of Harbaoui, it looked as if Lokeren would break the deadlock only for Köteles to pull off a fine double save. Moments later, the flamboyant Magyar saved from Killian Overmeire’s well hit long range strike.

Ojo replaced Monrose and Genk finally began to really push for the three points, sensing that attack was the best form of defence. Buffel stung the fingertips of Copa from 25 yards but despite having the experience, craft and guile of Buffel and Barda down the flanks, the other attacking players were too static and didn’t cause concern for Lokeren’s well drilled defence.

Tomorrow should be much more exciting with Club Brugge hosting Anderlecht and new leaders Zulte Waregem heading east to Sclessin in the hope of repeating the win they achieved during the first round of matches this season.

PO1: Zulte Waregem 40, Anderlecht 39, Racing Genk* 36, Standard Liège 35, Club Brugge 34, Lokeren* 31
* denotes having played a game more.

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