MICHAEL ADUBATO - Monday, July 30, 2018
KV Kortrijk vs Anderlecht
Eerste Klasse - Saturday July 28, 2018
Brendan Hines-Ike had to get adjusted to his new team quickly as he was immediately put in the starting line-up for Kortrijk in their Belgian Pro League opening loss to RSC Anderlecht on Saturday.
It was only 48 hours after the American defender completed his record transfer from Swedish Allsvenskan team Orebro, but since he was deemed game fit, he was penciled into the starting eleven to shore up the back line against one of Belgium's perennial title favorites.
Their opponents, Anderlecht, were without their American midfielder Kenny Saief. The Floridian is still a bit short of match fitness, so he was left back in Brussels. As things went, he really wasn't needed as Hines-Ike and his team mates saw the ball fly into the back of their net on four occasions. They could only get one goal back.
The sun shone hard and true that late afternoon in Flanders with a cool wind blowing the sweat off the fans unlucky enough to have the sun in their faces as the proceedings of the day started with the home team being introduced on the big screen (and Hines-Ike's name being misspelled) followed by a shortened version of You'll Never Walk Alone being played as large flags waved on the field before the teams came down the tunnel.
The teams lined up, the referee blew his whistle and as the clock struck three minutes, Anderlehct scored their first goal of the season. With a side-footed flick by Pieter Gerkens that found newly signed Ivan Santini's head; the Croatian headed up and over former Anderlecht keeper Thomas Kaminsky now in Kortrijk's goal. He backpedaled but not quick enough as the ball fell over his head and into the inside netting of the far post. Everyone celebrated but Santini, who played two seasons and scored 30 goals de Kerels, before leaving for France.
The home team pushed forward as Hines-Ike joined in on their attacks. Fourteen minutes in Idir Ouali let loose a hard shot from atop the 18-yard box but it sailed not only past Thomas Didillon between the sticks, but also the far post.
Then against the run of play, a long ball over the top was played for Teddy Chevalier and it was a footrace between him and Anderlecht defender Elias Cobbaut. The 31-year-old French legs were no match however for the 20-year-old Belgian ones as young left back won that race.
Anderlecht had a chance to double their lead 20 minutes in that started with Adrien Trebel's freekick just to the right of the D some 23 yards out. In the end, after not clearing the area very well, Gary Kagelmacher cleared the ball off the line and out of harm's way.
The first corner of the game came at the 22-minute mark and it was for the boys from Brussels. Trebel took it and after a poor attempt at a clearance Pieter Gerkens shot from the top of the box but cleared the cross bar by more than he'd like to admit.
Their second corner came minutes later and again the Frenchman delivered but this time it was Landry Dimata's effort that just missed the mark.
As the clock struck 27 minutes, Chevalier had a penalty shout after being brought down by Serbian defender Antonio Milic but it was waved away by the referee as the Frenchman protested in vain.
Kaminski came up trumps almost immediately down the other end as Cobbaut drilled his shot on target, trying to sneak it just inside the near post but the Belgian shot-stopper made the save look easy in the end.
On the half hour mark it should have been tied up at one apiece when Rubenilson Dos Santos da Rocha, a.k.a. Kanu, turned away a gift. Thomas Didillon charged out of his goal to the edge of the 18 yard box to chase up the ball but he didn't get there before the Brazilian who chipped it over him and the oncoming defender, Milic. The fans let out a collective gasp as he missed the target.
A minute later Dimata did not miss the target. Alexis Saelemaekers found his target advancing in the box and the Congolese-born Belgian delivered a fantastic diving header that Kaminski reacted to but when he picked himself up off the ground, he had to go and pick the ball out of the back of his net as well.
After a couple of half chances at both ends, Kanu latched onto a through ball that he flicked past the last defender, Sebastiaan Bornauw. Instead of a clear shot at goal, the ref saw a fould that nobody else did (except perhaps for Anderlecht fans) and blew his whistle.
He blew again as both teams headed into the locker rooms at the half with les Mauves up by a couple and Kortrijk wondering how they were going to get back into the game.
As the first half started, so did the second. Three minutes in again and Santini was celebrating another goal. Ognjen Vranješ' delivery into the six-yard box found Dimata, who slid it across goal for the Croatian.
For the second half, Hines-Ike moved over from the left back position to a central defending spot and rarely ventured into the attacking third with his team mates. He came into the game, looking more comfortable and in one instance where Dimata received a pass at the top of the box, the American attacked and snatched the ball away from the befuddled Belgian.
In minute 63 Kortrijk attacked, this time joined by Hines-Ike and the result should have been a penalty when one of the Anderlecht defenders handled the ball in the box. The ref seemed to be the only one who didn't see it as many fans drew the rectangular sign in the air signifying the VAR. Not in this league gentlemen.
Ten minutes later, under no pressure, Kaminski nonchalantly rolled the ball out to defender Gary Kagelmacher. Unfortunately, the very slow pace of the ball allowed the Great Santini to pounce and send it into the back of the net to complete his hat-trick. As les Mauves celebrated, an Anderlecht fan jumped onto the field and celebrated with them, eluding stewards along the way. Fortunately, the portly fellow was fully clothed.
With the game well out of reach Anderlecht seemed content to left their opponents have the ball knowing that any comeback was well out of reach. In the 81st minute Hines-Ikes made way for another KVK debutant, Petar Golubovic.
Before the final whistle the Kerels lit up the score board but the goal scorer wore purple. Vranjes floundered and was credited with the OG. And this is how it ended, with Anderlecht sharing possession 50-50 but dominating the scoreboard 4-1. After the game Yanks Abroad spoke to Kortijk's latest signing.
"It was a hard game," the Creighton alumni said. "I just got here two days ago so it nice to go right into the line-up but tough. Everybody's new. We have a lot of new players, but the group will come together. Unfortunately, we had to play against one of the best teams in Belgium for our first game. It's a long season though and we'll take a lot of positives (from today's game) and go forward."
Regarding showing up in Belgium and getting into the team immediately Hines-Ike said that, "the coach spoke to me a little bit about going right in to start because I'm game fit; I've already played over 20 matches in the Swedish League this year so I got to play right back (in the second half); I haven't played there in a while. I mostly play in the left center back position, so I was happy to be invited into the line-up."
Asked what he thought went wrong, Hines-Ike replied that, "It was the first game of the season, so I think it was classic little mistakes. We weren't marking tight enough. There were different mistakes from different players but overall it was a good match-up. We made too many little mistakes but it was the first game, so we can't be too tough on ourselves, especially against Anderlecht."
On assessing his own performance, he said, "I just tried to be as safe as possible and tried to get into the team and when I had my moments, tried to go forward and do the best that I could. It's difficult to come into a team in 24 hours and then play a game. Overall, I'm happy but it's never good to lose, especially in the first game."
Kortrijk and their new defender will get a chance to redeem themselves and collect some points when they travel to Royal Antwerp on Saturday night.