Zulte Waregem 0-4 Racing Genk: A slap in the face for Essevee
A combination of a series of individual errors and some fine finishing from the visitors dealt a sizeable blow to Zulte Waregem’s championship chances as they suffered a second successive defeat, going down 0-4 at home to a rejuvenated Racing Genk outfit.
The Zulte Waregem team news was a little more interesting than normal. Sammy Bossut returned in goal in place of Sébastien Bruzzese, Steve Colpaert was only on the bench as Bryan Verboom came in and Hernan Hinostroza was chosen ahead of Olafur Skúlason to replace the suspended Jonathan Delaplace. Racing Genk were without the suspended Derrick Tshimanga and injured duo Julien Gorius and Jeroen Simaeys, meaning Brian Hamalainen, Kara and Benji De Ceulaer all began the game.
Racing Genk took an early lead in rather bizarre circumstances. De Ceulaer’s ball released Buffel down the right and the ex-Cercle man’s low cross incredibly found its way into the net as Karel D’Haene’s clearance struck the knee of Bruno Godeau, who knew nothing about it.
Having been the most goal-shy team in PO1 with just five goals in six games before tonight, Genk picked the perfect moment to score two in a sensational nine minute period. Buffel, De Ceulaer and Kumordzi all combined to draw the Essevee defence across and the latter found an unmarked Steeven Joseph-Monrose on the left-hand side of the box. The French under-21 international took a good touch and drilled the ball low into the far corner past an outstretched Bossut.
The visitors by no means rested on their laurels. Zulte Waregem’s reorganised defence and midfield were proving no barrier to Genk’s array of attacking talent. Bossut stopped a Kumordzi header almost as it left the midfielder’s head, Leye headed off the line from Joseph-Monrose’s shot and Koulibaly headed over seconds later from Hyland’s cross. Essevee were still in the game but only by the skin of their teeth.
Essevee slowly but surely began to work their way back into the game but they posed little threat from open play. Hinostroza was denied a penalty when he went down under Buffel’s challenge but Nzolo rightly adjudged the challenge to be clean and fair. The young Peruvian then saw himself substituted before the break after a miserable evening, with Jens Naessens coming on. There was still time before the break for Buffel to shoot wide and De fauw’s header rightly ruled out for offside but Genk were more than content to go into the interval with a comfortable cushion.
Zulte Waregem looked to continue their progress at the start of the second half and Hazard almost got on the end of Berrier’s chip in behind the Genk defence. However, again the home side failed to create enough chances and Joseph-Monrose should have put the game to bed when he evaded a rather panicked sliding challenge from Bossut but could only find the side netting with the goal gaping. As it turned out, it did not matter a great deal in the final analysis.
There continued to be plenty of action with Zulte Waregem feeling aggrieved when Junior Malanda’s header was deemed not to have crossed the line by either the referee, linesman or the assistant behind the goal. De Ceulaer was then denied by a last-ditch challenge from Verboom, who was soon sacrificed for Trajkovski as Dury threw caution to the wind. Bossut made a superb reflex stop from a Vossen header but moments later, went from hero to zero.
Former Zulte Waregem defender Brian Hamalainen’s free kick looked innocous enough yet it was inexplicably spilled by Bossut, who took the save for granted and he was punished by a grateful De Ceulaer who tucked the rebound away. Francky Dury was both stunned and incensed on the touchline, being powerless to prevent such fatal errors. A lifeline arrived on 72 minutes when Thorgan Hazard was brought down by Khaleem Hyland but in truth it was a very soft penalty decision. For the second time in succession, Mbaye Leye put his penalty over the crossbar. He snapped soon after and gave Berrier a slap in the face for good measure.
Substitute Barda added the icing on the cake five minutes before the end of normal time. He found himself in on goal and though Zulte Waregem had thrown everyone forward, it was Berrier of all people who was tracking back. The Israeli outfoxed both the playmaker and Bossut, deftly chipping the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net.
It is undoubtedly a terrible result for Zulte Waregem but I think it is a little too simplistic to attribute the defeat itself to the pressure of topping the table. The first goal was unlucky and the absence of Colpaert and Delaplace clearly meant a less well-organised backline and a midfield, which did not even function at 50% of its normal capacity. Where the pressure did get to them was when Leye missed the penalty, hit out at Berrier and said after the game that only one of the two involved would be at the club next term. Sunday sees Club Brugge take on Lokeren and the big one between Anderlecht and Standard Liège. Everything is still to play for in Belgium!