MICHAEL ADUBATO - Monday, April 15, 2019
Genk vs Club Brugge
Eerste Klasse - Sunday April 14, 2019
On a sunny yet chilly Sunday afternoon on the outskirts of the Belgian city of Genk, second place Club Brugge came to the Luminus Arena to take on the group leaders.
Genk was one point better off than Club, having won two of their first three playoff games as well as coming into the playoffs with a four-point advantage over their opponents. Club, on the other hand, was three for three thus far.
Things didn't go according to plan for American shot-stopper Ethan Horvath and his team as they fell in the Province of Limburg by a score of 3-1 with a couple of the goals coming from the penalty spot.
Both teams came out onto the field with fire in their eyes and the battle began at the kick-off with Genk on the offensive first. Horvath got his first touch in the second minute when he booted a back pass down the other end of the field. Not ten minutes later Club's defense had already let it be known that they weren't going to be at their best. A terrible pass by Stefano Denswil gifted the ball to Leandro Trossard and the captain raced forward, lined up his shot from the top of the D and fired near post past the diving American keeper.
Club attacked soon afterward and won a corner that ended up over the crossbar for a goal kick. But the home team could have and perhaps should have doubled their lead in the 23rd minute when Ally Samatta ran forward into the attacking half and the ball from deep was mishandled by defender Brandon Michele, thus allowing the Tanzanian forward to race past him and get a sniff at goal. He faced the young American one on one and Horvath stayed big and got a foot to the goal-bound shot that he deflected off the far post. This save was after the Colorado-born keeper had also denied Trossard a second goal.
Club did have their chances coming forward but terrible final passes and off-target shots didn't' help their cause. Clinton Mata did have a shout from the top of the box but it went wide of the post.
When the clock struck a half hour played, Horvath was inches from picking the ball out of the back of his net again. Standing just to the right of his goal, he sent a sharp accurate pass forward to Denswil and the Dutch defender sent one right back; the back pass was closer to the other post however and the US Nat had to scramble across goal and knock it away before it crossed his line.
Things began to look up for the Blauw-Zwart however when Siebe Schrijvers charged into the box to receive a cross and Genk defenders Jere Uronen and the big Norwegian international Sander Berge brought him crashing down to the ground. Referee Alexandre Boucaut pointed to the spot and Hans Vanaken put the ball down and beat the Australian keeper, Danny Vukovic, to level the score.
Before the half, the Smurfs could have entered the locker room with the lead. Off a free kick Sebastien Dewaest nodded the ball past Horvath but with the complaints of the Brugge boys ringing in his ears, Boucaut consulted the VAR and confirmed that the Belgian and most of his teammates strayed offside.
Ten minutes after the restart, Genk was awarded a dubious penalty where Mr. Boucaut again consulted the VAR. In this case, Samatta was inside the box battling with Mechele for the ball. Tight to his marker, the attacker shot the ball low into the central defender's leg as the Belgian had his back turned. The ball bounced up and struck his arm and the referee decided to give a penalty that outraged Club's players and fans alike since the arm was not extended and the defender could not avoid the contact as he was looking the other way.
Ruslan Malinovskiy put the ball on the spot and Horvath guessed the right way but the Ukranian's shot was a perfect penalty and also the go-ahead goal.
A bit later on Malinovskiy played a ball across the box to Junya Ito and the Japanese international lined it up for Samatta but since he couldn't reach it, decided to fall over unassisted in the box and hope for the best. The best was that he wasn't booked for simulation.
The VAR wasn't used down the other end when Krepin Diatta was brought down by Uronen in the box. The Finnish international also went down and appeared to handle the ball but Monsieur Boucaut wasn't in the least interested.
The game was however put to bed a bit later with Ito's high cross into the box to the far post where Samatta nodded it home from five yards out. Horvath arrived too late to get a hand to it.
After the game the American keeper walked past the press in the mixed zone, refusing to speak so Yanks Abroad had a word with his teammate and goal scorer Hans Vanaken about the game and his keeper's performance.
"I think he played a normal game," the recently capped Belgian international said. "After the 1-0, he took great balls from Trossard and Samatta so after that; he didn't have much work right after. So it was a normal game for him. For me, he played a good game."
YA asked the attacking midfielder if perhaps Horvath's defense let him down a bit.
"For the first goal we lost the ball too easily in the middle and they went through. Ethan couldn't do anything about that goal. The second goal for me was a difficult decision; it was a ridiculous decision (penalty) and the third goal was a good header from Samatta. He couldn't do anything about the goals so he had a good performance."
The vice-captain remained optimistic about the team rebounding from the defeat and claiming another title.
"Genk still has to come to us. They've played three home games of the four. It's up to us now to react so we'll see what happens next week."
The Brugge Boys will get to redeem themselves next Monday when they head north to Antwerp. The Great Old is on a roll, however, having won their last three games and sit only three points behind Club. Genk, on the other hand, will make a short trip down the road into Wallonia to take on Standard Liege.