SCORELESS STALEMENT FOR ROYAL LIEGE
Royal Liege made the bus trip across southern Belgium to take on Royal Boussu Dour Borinage and came away with a rare point as both teams were unable to find the back on the net on Sunday afternoon.
Niko Gkionis started his third consecutive game and went the distance for Liege, who fielded a relatively young and inexperienced team at the Stade Robert Urbain.
Although the visitors' strategy appeared to be to defend the point, it was Liege who went on the attack first when in the third minute the combined forces of the youngsters were unable to test Stephane Coqu in the Boussu as the French keeper scooped up what ended up as a weak effort.
Boussu's first attempt came five minutes later as Orlando Silvestri picked up the ball in the midfield and played Christophe Copel though and into the box however Liege's keeper, Michael Descamps was a step quicker to avert the danger.
The home team won a free kick which Blaise Isankoy took in the 12th minute from wide left of the box and almost shocked Descamps with his curler that the big keeper had to dive for to push away. The Congoese did however get the ball back after Liege's combined defensive efforts were unable to clear the area. This time his shot was scuffed and the 19-year-old between the pipes collected with much more ease.
Gkionis had the chance to play provider but after Christophe Kinet fed Soufiane El Khadri, who was attacking up the left, he crossed to the American midfielder but lack of options in the box saw Gkionis' lay-off easily cleared as El Khadri failed to get into the box.
Past the half hour mark Lorenzo Lai took control of the ball and found Samuel Robail in the box with a high cross. The ex-Lille OSC midfielder got his head to it but it was blocked at the last minute for a corner. This was whipped into the area for another attacking header. This time however, Descamps picked it off the top of Anthony Savigny's head just in front of his far post.
With no significant action to write home about in the first half, after the intermission the game became a bit livelier. Almost immediately second half substitute Samuel Robail and Christophe Copel exchanged passes on the right side of the field and Copel whipped a dangerous cross into the box; it was however too hard and fast for the forward to latch onto, as Boussu began to dominate possession.
Liege eventually won a free kick courtesy of Christophe Kinet just on the right side of the D in the 56th minute, but Gaetan Audoor's free kick bounced into the keeper's welcoming arms.
Boussu had their best chance a few minutes later, again with Robail in the mix. Lai danced his way across the Liege box past a trio of defenders and found his French team mate, but the curling shot didn't have enough dip on it and sailed over the crossbar.
Johanne Amghar also had a decent chance after beating Patrick Bollue one-on-one, but obviously the excitement of getting around the defender was too much for him as the French Ami James look-alike struck his shot with gusto and a long way from the goal frame. Robail soon followed this effort with one of his own. His was much better and forced Descamps to tip it over the crossbar.
Finding space the whole second half on the right side, Robail fed Anthony Savigny who played the ball right onto the six yard line for the attacking Karim Saffer. The over-excited Moroccan couldn't believe his luck but ended up missing the open goal from close range.
The home team continued to dominate throughout the half with the Blood and Marine getting forward a few times on the counter attack. The visitors held their ground, defended well and after a couple of nervous stoppage time minutes, Monsieur Lagaerts put the whistle to his lips and let Liege celebrate their hard fought point.
After the stalemate, Liege's American midfielder spoke to Yanks Aboard about his and his team's performance on the day.
"I think we performed well as a team," insisted Gkionis. "We fielded a real young team and we had to follow the coach's defensive tactics because a lot of the guys today hadn't played for the first team before."
"We stuck to the game plan and did well, especially holding the shut out, but maybe we could have scored a goal if we pushed forward more. We could have won it, but a draw is good on the road."
On his performance as he gets used to what looks to be the new team after the bulk of the regulars have been giving a chance to move on, the Jersey native felt that he did a respectable job.
"I think I did OK personally. I was told by the coach to hold my position and to make sure that we kept good organization in the team and I tried to keep that. I did get forward a bit too. I think I did OK but could also have done better."
"Our goal was to make sure we kept the score at zero because we knew as the match went on that we would keep up the momentum. Our goal was to be patient. Any away game you have to be patient. We did have our chances but they had theirs too.
Overall Gkionis felt that the point was a bonus because, "we fielded a lot of teenagers today and nobody thought we would get a result."
Although one more week remains before the break, Royal Liege have a bye week so will not return to league competition until January 9th when they host Tubize.