PO1 Roundup : 3 Down , 7 To Go

We’re three games into Playoff I and it just got interesting.

The first two rounds of games proved that anything could happen, with all teams winning once and losing once.
Not a single draw and in all six games the three points were awarded to the home team.

That all changed when AA Gent managed to beat Standard Liège on Friday night at Sclessin, which is a notoriously difficult venue to grab a win in, because of the overwhelming and fanatical home support. Remember bannergate a few months back, when the Standard supporters rolled out a stand-spanning banner depicting former player Steven Defour beheaded by a knife-wielding terrorist. Like a nasty divorce, it’s incomprehensible how people who shared their lives are now locked in a vicious fight. People were in uproar.

Back to Friday evening, the pivotal moment in the game was Nicklas Pedersen’s insane thirty yard drive. The effect of this world class goal on Standard was the footballing equivalent of being punched and floored by the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. If you haven’t seen it : treat yourself to one of the finest goals you’ll ever see.

It was his second goal of the game and it sealed a Gent victory making them the first team to beat a direct rival at home.

On Sunday then, the big game between Club Brugge and Anderlecht was played. Those games are always cut-throat and it was no different on Sunday. Brugge had a 0-0 draw under their belt in the Europa League last Thursday against Dnipro so we were anxious to see what the effect would be on their game. They didn’t look as sharp as they could be and Anderlecht managed to grab the lead. Anderlecht had multiple chances to luck op the game but they failed time and time again. When you do this against this Brugge team, you know you might end up in a spot of trouble. Against the run of play Brugge turned it around, Oulare scored the equalizer and then managed to win it in the 86th minute with a goal by Ruud Vormer, the slick-haired dutchman.

The game was once again clouded in controversy as Anderlecht were denied what you would call a ‘stonewall’ penalty, that would’ve put the game away. The referee came out after the game saying his linesman was shouting “penalty” through his earpiece and he made a mistake. It’s still unclear to a lowly reporter like myself why UEFA and FIFA’s stance on video refereeing is so conservative. It makes no sense that you have to rely on someone to make a critical decision in the moment, when so much is on the line. As it is , Club Brugge is the new leader.

1. Club Brugge             37 pts
2. AA Gent                    35 pts
3. RSC Anderlecht      32 pts
4. Kortrijk                    30 pts
5. Standard                  30  pts
6.Charleroi                  29 pts

With Gent and Brugge both winning, the title race seems to be between Club Brugge and AA Gent with Anderlecht basically having to win everything from now on. There’s already a five point gap between them and Brugge. They don’t have to play Europa League like Brugge will be doing and if Club manages to advance to the semi-finals on Thursday , the impact on Playoff I will be very interesting to say the least.

AA Gent doesn’t dare to brand themselves a title contender but if they manage to win against Anderlecht in their next home game, they will not be able to deny they’re shooting for the top spot and are virtually eliminating Anderlecht from the title.

In the final game of the weekend Kortrijk and Sporting Charleroi drew 1-1 on Sunday evening which doesn’t help either of them. Kortrijk needed a win in order to keep their title dream alive.

Next set of games see AA Gent hosting Anderlecht, which is based on the standings “the big one”, Club Brugge hosts lasts-ranked Charleroi and Standard pays a visit to Kortrijk. Theoretically everyone is still in it and it’s gotten us all excited.

Bring on the next set of games please !

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