MICHAEL ADUBATO - Tuesday, May 1, 2018
KV Kortrijk vs SK Lierse
Eerste Klasse - Saturday April 28, 2018
Erik Palmer-Brown and KV Kortrijk remain in the hunt to come out their group in the Europa League playoffs following their win over Lierse Belgian league action over the weekend.
It was a beautiful evening in Flanders with both teams battling it out for a place in the next round of the playoffs where they hope to gain the ultimate prize - qualification for the playoffs into the Europa League. This would at least guarantee European opposition with the hopes after that of qualifying for the group stages.
Palmer-Brown, the on-loan Manchester City defender, got the nod and went the full 90 minutes for Kortrijk who had to come from behind to claim the win.
With around 200 Lierse SK fans in the away section, a good traveling crowd for any division two team, they gasped in unison in the third minute when Stijn De Smet got on the end of a cross from Teddy Chevalier. Instead of spinning away to celebrate, however, the effort hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced on the wrong side of the white line as far as KVK fans were concerned.
Ten minutes later Chevalier received over his should that he brought down sweetly but the shot directed at the near post kept rising and cleared the crossbar by a sizeable distance.
Although you would guess that the home team would score first, that was not to be. On a few attacks by the visitors, Thomas Kaminski ventured far off his line and even outside the box. Although he did get back on time, still a ball delivered by Yvan Yagan from the top right of the box was met by Nico Binst's head and the Belgian attacker just beat the outstretched hands of the former Anderlecht keeper. The goal came after just 14 minutes.
Give credit where it is due; Kortrijk took only three minutes to get a goal of their own. From a throw-in, Chevalier delivered the ball across the field and into the far side of the box, right to Stijn De Smet. The Belgian headed it right into the path of Jovan Stojanović and the Serbian tucked it in from barely three yards out.
Both teams then traded chances with Jeremy Perbet racing for a through ball that keeper Patrick Rakovsky reached first; followed by Othmane Boussaid's effort that Kaminski claimed.
De Kerels took control of the game but the visitors defended stubbornly. Chevalier had another chance from 22 yards out and forces the keeper into a fine save with a flying fingertip save that sends it over the crossbar. Another impressive move came when, inside the box, De Smet backheeled it to Stojanovic but defender Pierre Bourdin reacted quickly and pushed it away before a shot could be fired.
Chevalier owned the right side of the field in the final third where he often beat his markers and put balls into the box but Lierse's black and gold wall seemed impregnable once again. Still, the #9 continues his onslaught of crosses and finds Perbet but the Frenchman just doesn't get enough time to pull the trigger before he's closed down.
Palmer-Brown has joined in on the occasional attack but hasn't been kept very busy in his defensive duties as he and his back line have passed the ball among themselves and even came forward in support of some of the attacks.
Yagan had a 39th-minute chance to put the visitors ahead however with a cross into the box that he headed hard and true, however it was all too easy for Kaminski to claim. This was followed minutes later by Yagan again. This time he danced through a trio of defenders and let off a screamer that headed towards the target. Christophe Lapoint, however, got in front of it and sacrificed the body, taking the full impact of the shot and clearing the danger. This was how the first half ended.
It didn't take long into the second half before Kortrijk started bearing down on Rakovsky's goal. Inside the box, Lepoint laid it back for Abdul Ajagun and the Nigerian stuck it from 18 yards out but with too much bend on it, it cleared the far post.
Close to the hour mark Palmer-Brown had the ball at his feet but slipped and allowed the visitors to take possession. He recovered quickly however and raced back to help avert any threat.
Minutes later Binst ran up the left wing with the ball at his feet, met Palmer-Brown along the way and could do nothing as the American picked his pocket, stealing the ball with ease off the goal scorer.
Binst did have another decent chance 73 minutes in but Kaminski's strong arm saved the day that time.
Koen Weuts was the first recipient of a yellow card three minutes later when he brought down Idir Ouali. There were a couple more in the next dozen minutes for Lierse as tired legs resorted to bad tackles.
Off an 82nd minute corner, where things were getting desperate for de Kerels and their pursuit of a game-winner, the ball was cleared but was sent right back into the danger zone by Ajagun, right to Kristof D'Haene. The Belgian's shot, however, was straight at Rakovsky.
Five minutes from the 90 it finally happened. Attacking up the right, substitute Idir Ouali spotted Chevalier in the box and as the defenders kept their distance, the Frenchman side-footed past a flying keeper from 15 yards out.
Lierse didn't give up the ghost however and just before the full-time whistle Joerdi Poelmans wasn't far from salvaging a point for the second division team. It was not to be however and KVK held on to all three points.
Yanks Abroad spoke to Palmer Brown after the game and first asked about Lierse's goal.
"There were two men in the box, wide open," the American said, "and I didn't go for the ball. It was a mistake on my part but the game goes on."
"I think in the first half we just came out a little slow and we went forward too fast and we got countered a couple times. I think in the second half we settled down, kept the ball a little more and wore them out running up and down the field."
Though his team won the game, he was critical of his performance.
"I think I played alright but not the best performance; definitely some mistakes but got to get back at it next week."
The former Sporting KC man feels confident that the team can advance to the next round of the playoffs.
"Of course. We take it game by game and week by week. That's just how we have to prepare for this next game. We have a tough game but we're at home in front of our fans so anything can happen."
The next game will be against Zulte-Waregem who lead the group with 17 points to Kortrijk's 12 points. With just four games remaining, a loss could see their hopes of advancing vanish in 90 minutes.