MICHAEL ADUBATO - Monday, September 25, 2017
Charleroi vs Club Brugge
Eerste Klasse - Sunday September 24, 2017
Stade du Pays de Charleroi
First place Club Brugge and American goalkeeper Ethan Horvath claimed all three points as a late game-winner from Anthony Limbombe gave them a 2-1 win over Sporting Charleroi.
The game was a clash between the Pro League's number one and two teams. Club came into the game holding down the top spot having won six of their seven games while losing one. The hosts, on the other hand, came in undefeated with five wins and a pair of draws.
Horvath started between the sticks for Club, who were coming off a 2-0 win over Mechelen last time out. Charleroi could only manage a goalless draw against Oguchi Onyewu's former club, Standard Liege.
It took the visitors just two minutes to threaten after Hans Vanaken played Anthony Limbombe through on the left edge of the box. The Belgian forward then passed across the box to Dion Cools who coolly struck from 15 yards out but right at Nicolas Penneteau. The French keeper parried the shot away.
It wasn't long afterward when, at the other end, Nurio played a back heel to Kaveh Rezaei, on the edge of the American's 18-yard box. The Iranian international struck it well but just wide of the near post. This turned out to be the host's best move of the half for the Zebras, who seemed content to let their visitor's keep most of the ball.
With their possession, Ruud Vormer got a shot off that was deflected for a corner kick, followed by a long-range shot by Cools, that was blocked by Charleroi's captain, Javier Martos.
The first 15 minutes belonged mostly to the visitors, who had most of the possession and moved the ball around well but only got off that one shot on target. Charleroi then got into the game and gained possession and even moved into the Brugge half for a while but likewise, didn't really threaten.
A free kick from 25 yards out gave Nurio a chance when the ball was floated into the box but his header was easily collected by the 22-year-old Colorado native. Charleroi had another shout in the 21st minute from another free-kick from distance. It sailed into the crowded box and Horvath made his move and got a hand to it and punched it away. This was followed by a Zebra throw in that ended up near the far post and the Yank was again called into action. This time he punched it just before a Charleroi head made contact.
The first goal of the night really should have come in the 27th minute for Club. Emmanuel Dennis showed some superb dribbling skills and beat a few defenders and even got a shot off, though it took a slight deflection although continued towards goal. Marvelous Nakamba was almost on hand to tap it in but a Black and White defender swept it off the line. The Zimbabwe was not so marvelous on this occasion.
The hosts' Dodi Lukebakio and David Pollet stormed up the right flank and into Club's third of the field. What could have been a golden moment by the pair ended up to be a wasted opportunity, although the follow-up shot moments later by Rezaei was decent but without enough bend to get it on the right side of the far post.
With end-to-end action, Hans Vanaken had a golden opportunity, taking the ball halfway up the field and into the box before unleashing a fierce strike. The keeper was clearly beaten but not the post. Not to be outdone by a post at the other end of the field, Nurio was at it again with a hard hit shot that beat a diving Horvath but alas, another post made another save.
Just before the halftime whistle, Dennis picked out Wesley and the striker shot past his marker but his ball curling technique let him down and the ball went well wide. The second half would be much better.
Although Charleroi had their chances in the first 45 minutes, they didn't have much overall possession. That changed in the second half.
It must have been some team talk from Coach Felice Mazzu because his Zebras bolted out of the gate like thoroughbreds. They won a corner in the first minute after the intermission and then minutes later a free kick in a decent spot after Cools knocked over Pollet. And the FK almost paid off when Pollet got a head to it although it wasn't good enough to beat Horvath.
The long awaited break through came in the 68th minute and it came after a series of touches by Club, who cannot get the ball around the staunch Charleroi defenders until Wesley got his foot to it and slid it past the defenders and then past Penneteau, just inside the post to send the traveling fans into a frenzy.
Needing a goal back, Mazzu made a couple of changes, first bringing on French midfielder Clement Tainmont, and then Cristian Benavente. This seemed to change things for the better, as the Peruvian international created a half-chance for himself and then the Frenchman created an excellent chance when he crossed the ball into the box, leaving the American keeper with a decision to make. His choice wasn't the best as he found himself out of position when Rezaei found the back of the Brugge net.
The team from Flanders wasn't about to settle for a point, which would still keep them in the top spot when Wesley was replaced by former Middlesbrough and former Belgian international, striker, Jelle Vossen.
But with five minutes left on the clock, it looked like Charleroi would take all the points. Nurio picked out Benavente, kept running and the pass was returned and struck ever so sweetly, forcing the young American keeper into showing his acrobatic skills, thereby making a superb save. This was followed by yet another save for the highlight reels.
With all that vim and vigor, a goal did come but when it was all said and done, it was the Charleroi keeper who was picking the ball out of the back of his net. A Brugge attack turned into an 88th minute Brugge goal. Substitute Vossen set up his teammate Limbombe to bury the game-winner.
After the game, Yanks Abroad spoke to Hovarth about the victory, especially after Charleroi scored.
"When they scored," the youngster said, "I felt that they were going to push to get a second goal. Luckily I was able to make the saves that I did."
"The first save was something that we work on in training. You go out and try to make yourself as big as possible. It was a reflex save. The second one was also a reflex save because it was such a short distance and he hit it hard into the ground so it's a bit of a reflex save."
On beating an undefeated team, he continued, "Its nice to come here and get the victory because its not easy to win here. You see they always beat Anderlecht and these other big teams, so I'm happy that we came here and took the three points to increase our lead at the top."
Although it looked to be Club's best performance of the young season, Horvath put things into perspective.
"I don't know if this was our best game of the season but it's certainly up there. When you look at the Lokeren game and Mechelen; we played some very good games but this one is definitely up there. But you can see that we're just getting better and better and growing as a team. The system fits us well now and we're getting better and better."
Next up for the league leaders will be a derby in their Jan Breydel Stadion against KAA Gent, who will still be without American Kenny Saief. This will be followed by the international break where the Brugge number one will be hoping for a phone call from Bruce Arena.