Racing Genk 2-1 Lokeren: Plet is the supersub once more
Racing Genk became the first home team to win in Play-Off 1 at the eight attempt as they bounced back from Lokeren’s opening goal to win 2-1 and thus overcome a side who are often difficult to put away.
Genk coach Mario Been had called for his side to improve their general play and he decided to strengthen midfield with Hyland, Kumordzi and Gorius all starting, while Kara retained his place ahead of Koulibaly, who returned from suspension. Peter Maes named Belgian youth international Alexander Corryn at leftback with Greek fullback Galitsios only well enough to sit on the bench after illness.
The home side responded well to their coach’s instructions in the early stages with some enterprising passages of play. The attacking players interchanged positions and were willing to take their men on but sometimes Genk were too intricate. With three in midfield, Benji De Ceulaer was tasked with providing width on the left and an early cross was held by Copa.
Lokeren were not carrying enough of a threat in Genk’s half due to a tendency to give the ball away too easily. Julien Gorius tried to emulate the stunning goals scored by Mpoku and Vainqueur last night but Copa could only watch as his 25-yard shot struck the post. That seemed to spring Lokeren into life. Mokulu, again playing down the right, got in behind Tshimanga and selfishly shot from a narrow angle. Köteles saved and fortunately for Genk, the rebound just about evaded Harbaoui.
There was to be no let off moments later when Lokeren opened the scoring in the 21st minute. Sporting captain Killian Overmeire found Mokulu with a powerful back post cross and the striker leapt above Tshimanga to powerfully head beyond Köteles. The goal showed the advantage of having a player on the flank who is adept in the air.
Copa kept out a shot from De Ceulaer with a smart stop and Genk went into the break in arrears, despite having had the better of the opening 45 minutes. The curse of the home teams looked set to continue.
De Ceulaer at times looked a bit too eager to impress against his old club and his final ball often let the side down when his pace and his trickery had created a potential opening. His evening would come to an end when he picked up a hamstring injury. Buffel had a penalty shout turned down and with no equaliser in sight, Mario Been turned to his faithful substitute Glynor Plet with around 30 minutes to play.
It proved to be a golden substitution from the Dutch coach. Plet equalised three minutes after coming on. Buffel found the man on loan from FC Twente at the near post and the tall striker headed home his sixth goal as a substitute this season – equalling the tally of Anderlecht’s Sasha Iakovenko.
Lokeren’s Tunisian forward Hamdi Harbaoui had the chance to equalise when a long ball forward played him in but Jeroen Simaeys produced a perfect slide tackle inside the penalty area to keep his side’s lead intact.
Genk, who dominated possession throughout and created three times as many chances as Lokeren, made sure of the three points they needed five minutes from time. Jelle Vossen lifted the ball to the back post, Plet headed back across goal and Anele’s bullet header was well over the line, as confirmed by the extra official behind the goal. Koen Persoons picked up a late booking, meaning he misses the midweek trip to Anderlecht.
Anderlecht are now joined at the top on 35 points by Genk ahead of their clash tomorrow at home to Club Brugge. Lokeren are now being cut adrift after just one point from their first three matches.
PO1: Racing Genk 35, Anderlecht* 35, Zulte Waregem 34, Standard Liège 32, Club Brugge* 30, Lokeren 27. (* denotes game in hand)