MICHAEL ADUBATO - Monday, July 29, 2013
Anderlecht kicked off their title defense in terrible fashion as they lost by a 3-2 score line to Sporting Lokeren in front of them home town fans.

American Sacha Kljestan started, as was often the case last season, in the center of the park but the former Chivas USA man wasn't able to see out the first half, having come off injured in the 23rd minutes and then substituted by youngster Youri Tielemans two minutes later.

The Anderlecht goals were scored by Massimo Bruno and Guillaume Gillet, while youngster Hans Vanaken hit a pair for Lokeren and Jordan Remacle bagged the other.

Having let some experienced players leave during the summer, Anderlecht has been slow to buy replacements due to the fact that they want to give youth a chance in the style of Arsenal's Arsene Wenger.

Deputizing for the suspended Senegalese central defender, Cheikhou Kouyate, was 18 year old Chancel Mbemba. Nineteen year old Dennis Praet, who saw some first team action last season was also in the starting XI; as well as 19 year old Massimo Bruno. Kljestan's replacement in the first half, Youri Tielemans, celebrated his 16th birthday in May.

Even with their youthful team, Anderlecht came out like the old Anderlecht; controlling the ball and setting the pace of the game. It took all of six minutes for them to get up the field and threaten the Lokeren goal. Front man Zoro Cyriac Gohi Bi stormed up the left wing and sent a threatening cross into the box but Barry Boubacar Copa was alert and snatched the ball out of the sky.

In the 10th minute however the visitors were beginning to get their bearings as Nill De Pauw attacked up the left side and picked out his striker, Hamdi Harbaoui, who leapt and got his head to it but the veteran shot-stopper, Silvio Proto, has little trouble in dealing with it.

As a matter of factly, Proto was lucky not to be facing a penalty because Gillet tussled with De Pauw and brought him down in the box but Mr Luc Wouters in his referee suit didn't see anything wrong with the tackle.

Fifteen minutes in and Praet and Olivier Deschacht were working the ball around the Lokeren area with some nice passing but when it mattered Aleksander Scholz was able to clear the cross into the box. Jordan Remacle, who was a handful all evening, took a free kick but young Mbemba was able to clear it.

Les Mauves' defense wasn't as lucky a few minutes later when Remacle floated the ball into the box from wide left and found Vanaken, who was playing in his first top level game. The 20 year old out-jumped Mbemba and headed into the back of the net from eight yards out. Proto did however get a hand to it but was not able to turn it around the post. The goal came in the 19th minute.

Four minutes later Kljestan, who was the calming element in the middle of the park, jumped for the same ball as Remacle. The Belgian jumped an threw out his arm and the American winced in pain. He came off for treatment and was then replaced by Tielemans.

Kljestan headed to the local hospital for treatment on his ear which was torn and required stitches.

"I just spoke to Sacha," an Anderlecht spokesman told YA after the game. "He tore or ripped his ear and he has stitches but he doesn't know how many weeks he is going to be out. This is all we really know for now but will communicate with the press when we know more."

Just before the half hour mark it coulda been/shoulda been all tied up. Matias Suarez struck the sweetest shot from just outside the box that was put out for a corner. The corner came to the Argentinean as well and this time he hit it with gusto and smashed it against the near post. Fortunately for the visitors the ball cleared itself from the danger area.

Down the other end a couple of minuts later Proto was called into action after Hamdi Harbaoui's low shot that the keeper got a hand to.

Kljestan's replacement was called upon to take a free kick from 30 yards out. The scorcher goes right through the crowded 18 yard box and ends up hitting the far post. Copa never saw it coming and was happy for the assist by the woodwork.

The half time whistle blew and 45 minutes of soccer had ended.

Anderlecht came forward immediately after the intermission and on the top of the D young Bruno picked out Suarez to his left. The front man had all the time in the world but missed the target completely sending it over the top of the bar.

It would take less than ten minutes for the champions to get the goal back when Suarez played the ball across the field from left of the box, sailing it over the Sporting defense. The ball fell to Bruno's chest and he composed himself and fired into the back of the net. Game on!

A couple of minutes later an Anderlecht corner kick from Tielemans was almost a net rippler but Suarez little flick went just inches off target.

In the 69th minute the Tricolores regained their one goal cushion. De Pauw beat a couple of defenders and gets the ball centered for Vanaken who fires it past Proto for his second of the game. The youngster who was just bought from second division team Lommel was playing his first big game and was shining.

In the 71st minute you could have stuck a fork in les Mauves because they seemed to be done for the night when Remacle darts forward into the right side of the box while all the defenders appeared to be out of position. The Belgian had no problem adding to the score.

With their never say die attitude however, it was soon 3-2. Bruno was brought down in the box by Jeremy Taravel and Gillet did the honors. He put the ball on the spot and waited for the Ivorian keeper to move, then shot it into the right side of the goal.

The fans were beginning to think this would be one of those classic Anderlecht comebacks when ten minutes from full time. This time it was the goal scorer Gillet who was brought down in the box and the culprit was Aleksander Scholz. This time however Copa guessed right as Gillet put the ball in the exact same spot as his last penalty kick. Copa made the save and thereby secured all the points for Sporting.

Since Kljestan was not available, Yanks Abroad spoke briefly to Bram Nuytinck.

"Last week we had a good feeling. We trusted in our abilities and we won (the Super Cup) against Genk," the Dutch defender said. "What happened today I don't know, but there were a lot of mistakes. Their goals were too easy for them. We just gave them away."

The team then tried a different stragegy in the second half.

"After the break the decision was made to play just three in the back with Gillet in the middle, but the organization was gone. For example, the third goal was too easy. Everybody was out of position. That goal was the fault of the defenders and not our keeper."-

On Friday night Anderlecht will have a chance to make amends when they travel to Brugge to take on Cercle. Whether or not their Californian will take part is not yet known.