Standard 0-0 Anderlecht: Sporting fluff their lines in turgid affair
For the second successive season, Standard and Anderlecht drew 0-0 in the play-offs at Sclessin. In a turgid affair, which should have promised much more, the champions turned in a considerably worse performance than in the defeat to Genk and Standard’s defence proved impregnable once again.
Mircea Rednic went in with his strongest side as Jelle van Damme returned from suspension. His opposite number John Van den Brom surprisingly opted to leave Tom De Sutter on the bench with Suarez, Jovanovic and Iakovenko in attack. Deschacht came in for Safari at leftback and the midfield trio of Biglia, Kljestan and De Zeeuw continued.
In a slightly more full Sclessin compared to recent weeks, the match began with a fervent atmosphere in the stands, befitting the occasion. Denis Odoi lit the blue touchpaper in the early stages when he barged Ciman into touch but fortunately, the in-form Standard defender came back on shortly after.
Paarswit were enjoying over 70% of the ball and Standard had settled into the same defensive shape that proved so successful in Brugge. When Iakovenko broke the shackles, the resulting corner led to the best chance of the first 45, with Kouyaté heading wide at the far post.
Buyens and Mpoku were lively going forward for Standard, De Zeeuw hit the top of the net and Bulot forced Proto into a save to his left but neither side were able to create any clear-cut opportunities. Standard were grateful though to Daniel Opare for his interception on the stroke of a halftime break, which came as light relief from a poor first period.
Unfortunately, the second half didn’t bring any respite for anyone seeking some Saturday night entertainment. Standard had more urgency about them going forward but neither side were ready to give way. Lucas Biglia was grateful when Nuytinck took out Buyens after the Anderlecht captain had given the ball away inside his own half.
Despite the lacklustre nature of Anderlecht’s play, their first change only came with around 20 minutes to go, when Praet replaced De Zeeuw. Standard introduced target man Tucudean and the speedy Nagai for Batshuayi and Ezekiel. Rednic’s alterations had an impact and briefly aroused this match from its seemingly never-ending slumber. Nagai had a great chance inside the box but instead of going with his left, he tried to find the net with the outside of his right and shot wide.
Bruno was a little more lively than Jovanovic when he came on 80 minutes too late ; if only the highly remunerated Serb had as much of a say on the pitch as he had once sat down on the Anderlecht bench. Matias Suarez looked to have fashioned the elusive golden chance for les Mauve et Blanc but a last-minute intervention from ex-Mauve Jelle van Damme saved the day.
Nagai, who had spurned a good chance last time out in Brugge, wasted a counter attack with a heavy touch and headed wide from a late and wonderfully delivered Cristea set piece. If the Japanese striker had the quality and composure to match his speed and willingness, Standard would have been out of sight. Shortly after Iakovenko avoiding an embarrassing own goal when he hooked the ball clear, Luc Wouters brought an end to proceedings and not a moment too soon.
Standard were the better of the two sides but quite frankly, they didn’t have a lot in front of them. Against the backdrop of such a toothless and pathetic (considering their players) Anderlecht display, this feels like a missed opportunity to build upon the win in Brugge. Nevertheless, with 4 points from 6, they have three more than Anderlecht since PO1 began and William Vainqueur won his midfield duel with Lucas Biglia. John van den Brom must hope he welcomes back Dieumerci Mbokani the Golden Shoe winner and not the moody, inconsistent player who failed to make it outside of Belgium. After Anderlecht fluffed their lines, Genk and Zulte Waregem, it’s over to you.