Lokeren 4-1 Standard Liège: A very unhappy anniversary for les Rouches
Five years to the day that Standard Liège claimed their first league title after 25 years of hurt, they suffered an embarrassing 4-1 defeat away to Lokeren in a match punctuated by a series of alarming individual errors as les Rouches were often the architects of their own downfall.
Mircea Rednic, the subject of bizarre rumours linking him with Genk this week, picked his strongest side on paper with Ezekiel and Batshuayi paired together up front. Lokeren named Jore Trompet in central midfield and El Mouataz replaced the young Corryn at leftback.
Standard were the quicker of the two teams out of the blocks but they fell behind in the ninth minute. More surprising still was the manner in which the goal came. Eiji Kawashima, who had been magnificent in midweek against Racing Genk, punched a cross straight to Benjamin Mokulu, who drove the ball under the two covering defenders and into the net.
The visitors were not cowed by Lokeren’s opening gambit and continued to dominate the game. Taravel foiled Batshuayi and though Overmeire shot harmlessly wide, Standard had no less than seven corners in the opening 23 minutes. It didn’t prevent them from falling further behind at the midway point of the half, however.
Once more, the Standard defence, which has kept sixteen clean sheets this season, failed to cover itself in glory. They failed to clear their lines following Nill De Pauw’s initial header at goal. Mokulu picked up the pieces and found De Pauw whose shot beat Kawashima and was inadvertently helped over the line by the efforts of van Damme. Lokeren had shown an ability to ruthlessly punish Standard for their mistakes with both goals being avoidable.
A 2-0 deficit is by no means intimidating for this Standard side, who came back from 3-1 down to win in Waregem and they began to raise hope of an encore this evening when they pulled a goal back. Batshuayi, who asked questions of Lokeren’s defence throughout the opening 45, picked the ball up from Ezekiel before his cross found its way to Mpoku at the far post and the unmarked midfielder made no mistake.
Standard suffered a blow when Mpoku went off at the break and though the start of the second period often mirrored the basic pattern of the first, they looked less potent than before the interval. Rednic had to introduce Diabaté at the break and this liberated van Damme to play further forward. The Standard captain was twice denied by Copa as he made his aerial presence felt inside the Lokeren penalty box.
The comedy capers at the back then made a return and led to the definitive downfall of Standard. A terrible mistake from Ciman, who recently remarked that he was enjoying his best ever season, handed the ball to Mokulu in a plate. He found Harbaoui, who was all alone as the Standard defence stepped up and he slotted the ball past Kawashima, who was left horribly exposed by the ineptitude of those in front of him.
If by now the individual errors were beginning to grate, the fourth goal saw Standard’s defence descend into farce. Harbaoui looked to have been stopped in his tracks by Ciman. Kanu then came in to sweep up and completely missed his kick – Harbaoui was more alert than the error-prone duo and he used the opportunity to fire the ball home to put the icing on the cake and condemn Standard to a heavy defeat. With the games coming thick and fast in the play-offs, particularly with three in the last week, it can all change in the blink of an eye. Lokeren have done the others a real favour tonight and Standard only have themselves to blame.