Racing Genk 1-2 Anderlecht: Suárez scores as the champions go top once more
Matias Suárez scored his first goal in almost a year as Anderlecht secured a hard-fought 1-2 win away to cup winners Racing Genk to return to the top of the league with two games to play.
Mario Been was without injured duo Jeroen Simaeys and Jelle Vossen while fellow cup final goalscorer Bennard Kumordzi had to make do with a place on the bench. John van den Brom recalled Dennis Praet at the expense of Milan Jovanovic, who cut a miserable figure on the sidelines.
There was a real party atmosphere in the Cristal Arena as the teams came out with the home fans still jubilant after Thursday’s cup win over Cercle Brugge. However, the order of the day was the serious business of staying in the title race and Genk were the more lively team in the opening stages. Buffel in particular looked fresh, having a shot saved and leaving Safari and Nuytinck for dead down the right flank. The versatile Guillaume Gillet was forced into a superb tackle on Ojo inside his own box and at the other end, Kara was equally composed to foil Mbokani.
Anderlecht took the lead midway through the first half and from a Mauve point of view, it couldn’t have come from anyone better. Lucas Biglia found Praet in space and the young playmaker squared the ball to Matias Suárez, who unleashed a first-time shot beyond Köteles and into the bottom corner. It was his first goal of the season and came almost a year to the day since he had last scored (13/5/12 v Standard having rounded the goalkeeper). Suárez, who has been plagued by injury and has seen a move to CSKA Moscow collapse, had predicted beforehand that he would find the net.
Both sides continued to create chances. Hyland had a shot, Bruno headed a Praet cross wide and Mbokani was denied by the feet of Köteles after lovely work from Biglia and Bruno. Genk equalised soon after with a goal just as good as the first, if not better. Nuytinck lost his bearings after a challenge with Buffel and Kara was quicker to the ball than Biglia. The Senegalese defender wasted no time in rocketing the ball into the top corner past Silvio Proto, who didn’t sniff it. If we are to believe the speed gun, the shot was travelling at the speed of light – or 88mph / 140kmh to be precise. The sides went in level at the break but only after Proto had kept a header from a fired up Joseph-Monrose out.
Iakovenko came on for Bruno, which I found rather surprising but it was Genk who should have taken the lead. Anele, Buffel and Hyland ran rings around Anderlecht only for the South African to fire wide with the goal at his mercy. Things were about to take an interesting turn and with Anderlecht involved, it’s no surprise there was a penalty involved. Suárez was tripped inside the box by Hyland, who was not awarded a second yellow. Genk should have had no complaints but Buffel was booked for dissent. The mind raced back to the epic shootout in the cup semi as Gillet placed the ball on the spot. Although he’d scored his last spot kick, this time he struck the crossbar and Köteles celebrated as if he’d saved it in the final minute of stoppage time. It was the TENTH time Anderlecht had missed a penalty in 38 league matches this season.
As we entered the final ten minutes, a whole host of possible scenarios remained viable but it was Paarswit who seized the chance to take a decisive step towards the title. Mbokani lost his balance as he failed to make contact with Iakovenko’s cross. De Zeeuw took plenty of time at the back post and though he fluffed his shot, Hyland inexplicably and lazily stuck a boot out to divert the ball into the net but the goal was subsequently awarded to the ex-AZ midfielder, whose future is still very much up in the air.
Although Proto had to prevent a Kouyaté own goal, the second goal proved to be enough for Anderlecht to hold on. Racing Genk joined Standard in falling out of title contention today. They are already assured of European football having won the cup and though even the Champions League looks unlikely, they can be content with a successful campaign. Anderlecht, Zulte Waregem and Club Brugge to fight it out in the final week featuring games on Thursday and Sunday. Anderlecht will be champions if they win in Lokeren and Zulte Waregem draw with Club Brugge.
PO1: Anderlecht 45, Club Brugge 43, Zulte Waregem 43, Racing Genk 39, Standard Liège 38, Lokeren 31
Thursday: Lokeren v Anderlecht, Zulte Waregem v Club Brugge, Racing Genk v Standard Liège
Sunday: Anderlecht v Zulte Waregem, Club Brugge v Racing Genk, Standard Liège v Lokeren