Lokeren 1-4 Club Brugge: (Club) Brugge back in business

Club Brugge roared back into life following last week’s dismal defeat with a 4-1 win away to Lokeren in an encounter jam-packed with goals and controversy, with the scoreline doing the home side something of a disservice.

Lokeren targeted Meunier in the early stages as part of a strategy to get at both Club Brugge fullbacks. Hamdi Harbaoui was doing a good job bringing the midfield into play as the targetman and Benjamin Mokulu was a handful in the air and on the flank. The lead therefore came as no surprise.  A punt upfield from Alexander Scholz exposed a static, switched-off Club Brugge defence. Benjamin Mokulu kept his head to stride into the penalty area and dink the ball coolly over an advancing Vladan Kujovic. Crucially, the presence of Harbaoui prevented Oscar Duarte from trying to prevent an early setback.

Club Brugge were frustrated by a well-organised Lokeren defence in the opening stages. However, the game began to open up for both sides. Mokulu shot straight at Kujovic and just after the half-hour, Gudjohnsen caught his volley beautifully only to see it crash against the bar. This stirred Blauw-Zwart into action and Copa had to be extremely alert to race out of his goal to foil Meunier, who had been found by a clever ball from Bacca.

The game began to open up and Club Brugge levelled the game on 38 minutes. Mijat Maric’s poor touch let in Maxime Lestienne, who played a one-two with Carlos Bacca before toying with Copa and then rounding the Ivorian to equalise. It was a ruthlessly efficient piece of play from Club’s two best attackers this season.

Lestienne, who was central to most of the evening’s major events, also played a pivotal role in Club taking the lead in first half stoppage time. His left-footed free kick picked out Oscar Duarte at the far post and the Costa Rican headed home for his second goal in Belgium. It was a superb fightback but Club also had to thank Kujovic for a stunning save from a Harbaoui header just prior to Duarte’s strike.

Drama engulfed the opening minutes of the second half in one of the most sour-tasting episodes of the season. Maxime Lestienne was heading out of play but something possessed Copa to rush out to meet the young Belgian. At first glance, it appeared that Copa had brought the attacker down but replays showed Lestienne had conned referee Alexandre Boucaut into giving a penalty by diving to the ground without any contact having been made. Kortrijk’s excellent goalkeeper Darren Keet pointed out to me on Twitter that:

— Darren Keet (@popeyekeet) April 5, 2013

Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe stepped up from the spot and sent Copa the wrong way and though he needed the help of the underside of the crossbar, he’d scored directly from a penalty for the first time since August 2011 against Anderlecht. By now, everything was starting to go wrong for Lokeren. Kujovic spilled a Leko shot but then made a fantastic reaction stop to keep out Harbaoui’s rebound before the Tunisian striker then hit the post on a frustrating evening.

Refereeing incompetence or otherwise, Lokeren were often the architects of their own downfall. Peter Maes told Copa he should never have been near Lestienne in the first instance and to rub salt into Lokeren wounds, Milos Maric gave the ball away leading to a fourth goal for the Bruggelingen. Bacca played in Vadis, who first evaded the challenge of Scholz then rounded Copa to score his second of the evening and put the game to bed.

Lokeren had the stuffing knocked out of them and Club Brugge saw out the game in relative comfort. There was still time, however, for Harbaoui to miss another chance and be booked himself for simulation, despite being pushed to the ground by Jim Larsen – a decision that added insult to injury for Sporting. Club Brugge move up to fourth on 30 points while Lokeren now run the risk of being left behind in PO1, sitting sixth on 27. What a turnaround for Garrido’s men – Duarte continues to impress, Kujovic had one of his best games, Vadis is showing why he’s been so highly rated down the years and Lestienne, for all his antics, was decisive yet again for the right reasons as well. After an eventful Friday night, which sets the weekend up beautifully, Club Brugge are by no means the finished article but they are at least back in business.

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