Standard 2-0 Anderlecht; Steven Defour and a banner steal the show
Matches between Standard Liége and Anderlecht are rarely tepid encounters. Nearly every time the two teams meet there will be an incident or occurrence that will serve as a reminder that these two teams really do not like each other.
Yesterday’s encounter was all that and more. While the fans behaviour is often questionable at best it generally stays in the crowd, but their latest meeting may well have crossed a border.
In fact, in most certainly did.
To understand there needs to be some back story to help give us context. You don’t have to be a Belgian football expert to know who Steven Defour is, while some of the more narrow minded may never had heard of him anyone who knows about European football will most likely have heard of him.
Those who have heard of him may well be able to remember how he slotted into a midfield trio at Standard which included Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini. Defour was Mr. Standard. The embodiment of what made that club what it was and while perhaps a little more limited than his two midfield counterparts there was a certain tenacity to Defour that would endear him to an average football fan.
Born in Mechelen, Defour made his Standard debut in 2006 and went on to make 125 appearances for the club. He was captain at 19-years-old and no one could really begrudge him his move to Porto when he left in 2011.
That Defour’s time in Porto wasn’t spectacular is no great mystery. Over time he found his playing time limited and eventually it was clear there was no future for him at the club. A move home was mooted.
It would have felt like a nightmare slowly unravelling as Anderlecht’s interest in their one time talisman became a sure thing. Wednesday 13 August 2014, Defour put pen to paper to become a ‘Mauve’ and from then on there was one match that everyone had to put in their calendars.
The clash on 25 January 2015 would be the most anticipated match in the Pro League this season, perhaps in any season.
‘Bienvenue en enfers les Barbies’ was the sign that would greet the travelling fans and players. ‘Welcome to hell, Barbies’ as it translates. This isn’t anything too drastic. It would take a rather sensitive soul to be offended by such a sign but it was a stark reminder that on this day Belgium would grind to a halt, it was all about these two teams and their 90 minutes of manic football.
There wasn’t much surprise in the team news. Defour would start against his former club, a return to Sclessin for the once loved midfielder, but he was certainly not to be welcome with open arms. Alexander Scholz made his first start for Standard having moved from Lokeren and no doubt realised what it meant to move to a club of this stature very quickly.
The young Youri Tielemans and Leander Dendoncker would start in midfield for Anderlecht, backing up Defour. At a combined age of 36 it would be a massive stage for both players to continue their flourishing development.
Things got a bit nastier when Standard unfurled their large banners. A terrifying clown of epic proportion swallowing up an Anderlecht shirt, not too horrific unless you suffer from a crippling fear of clowns. It was the next banner that got people talking though. People all around the world talking, in fact. A masked machete wielding man holding the severed head of Defour with the words ‘Red or Dead’ adorning the tier spanning tifo.
There is a certain chilliness to the banner. It made clear in no uncertain terms that Defour was not welcome back to the place he once called home, and while a match between these two rarely goes off without a hitch it was almost a ticking time-bomb on this particular day.
If the banners intention was to rile up Defour, then it certainly did that. If it was to cross the boundary from football fan to savage hooligan, it probably did that also, but the former issue would be more instantaneous.
Defour was central to Anderlecht’s moves early on in the match. His involvement conspicuous by the loud boos that accompanied his every touch but for the most part Defour seemed unfazed.
Not long after the restart, however, things reached the inevitable tipping point. With Milec of Standard Liége down with a facial injury after a clash with Oliver Deschacht, Standard opt to play on and look for the goal which quickly fizzles out. Once the cede possession they expect Anderlecht to put the ball out so their right back can receive treatment, Defour – currently on the ball – duly obliges by rifling the ball at the Standard dugout which sends the crowd, and intended targets, into a frenzy.
It was unclear at the time what the yellow card was for. All that was clear was that it was his second and therefore Defour had received his marching orders on his return to Sclessin. For a while he refused to go, and even as the match resumed it was still a mystery was to why he had been sent off. Afterwards it became apparent that referee Alexandre Boucaut, who was losing control of the match by this point, had blown his whistle and therefore Defour had kicked the ball away.
The red card was the beginning of the end. Laurent Ciman would score ten minutes later with a beautiful Robin Van Persie-esque volley which brought his own story arc to a head. With Ciman making his final appearance for the club, moving to Montreal for the superior medical assistance his daughter requires, he scores the deadlock-breaker against his biggest foe.
Igor De Camargo would add a late second, flicking in a Yuji Ono low cross and for the second time this season Standard would beat their rivals 2-0. In the short term they certainly had their day, seeing Defour sent off and winning the match.
In the long term, that banner, the safety of players and fans within this fixture. I’m not sure anyone can lay claim to winning.