MICHAEL ADUBATO - Tuesday, August 11, 2020
The Belgian Pro League got their new season underway this past weekend and there were some Yanks who took to the field, including new Waasland-Beveren signing Joseph Efford.
Saint Truiden 2-1 KAA Gent
Young American Chris Durkin is obviously staying at the Stayen (Stadium) because he suited up for the Canaries and helped them collect all three points against a usually pretty tough Gent team.
Yuma Suzuki, in his second year at the club after five impressive season at J-League side Kashima Antlers, got the scoring underway with just two minutes gone on the clock when after two defenders failed to deal with the cross into the box coming in from the left wing. He guided it in from just inside the six yard box. He had another chance to ripple the net but the Gent keeper got down quick enough to keep it from going just inside his near post. He was then pushed over just inside the box but the referee and even VAR said no penalty.
Gent fought back and tied things up minutes before the half time whistle. This was a goal by Ukrainian defender Igor Plastun who headed in Sven Kums corner kick two minutes before the half time whistle.
The battle continued after the restart and when the clock struck one hour the fans would have witnessed a comedy of errors by the Gent defense, if the Belgian government allowed fans to attend games. After the keeper and a defender went for the same ball, it fell to Suzuki but his shot was cleared off the line but just in front of goal and another shot meant another goal line clearance. Facundo Colidio took the third shot and stuck the back of the net.
With all the points in the bag, Durkin and company will head to Brussels for a Sunday afternoon matinee as they take on an Anderlecht team that is looking for a much better season than last year's where they failed to bring home any trophies or even qualify for Europe.
KV Kortijk 1-3 Waasland-Beveren
There's a new Yank in the country and that is Joseph Efford, He joined the Flemish team that is located just outside of Antwerp from Ergotelis in Greece and helped them dismantle Brendan Hines-Ike's Kortrijk boys, picking up an assist along the way. The defender started on the bench and spent the duration of the game there.
Again, this was a game with the first goal coming early. Belgian Daan Heymans bagged his first goal of the game at the 10 minute mark. He and Alessandro Albanese played a one-two in the box after Efford pulled the ball back and slide it to the Belgian's feet as the defense just stood there and watched before it was tucked away from close range.
The score stayed like that until the Kerels were awarded a penalty after Ilombe Mboyo was brought down deep in the box. He placed the ball on the spot and in the 54th minutes the score was all tied up.
In the 68th minute Aboubakary Koita, who had only been on the field for three minutes, having replaced Albanese, pulled the trigger from just to the left of the D at the top of the box and although it should have been a comfortable save for the keeper, it slipped through his gloves as he gifted the visitors the go-ahead goal. Andrija Vukcevic, from Montenegro, got the assist.
Beveren's keeper had a bit of a howler himself when in the 85th minute he was off his line and decided to try a one hand punch and would have knocked it into his own goal if it wasn't for a mad dash goal line clearance from one of his defenders.
Efford's efforts paid off in stoppage time when he beat the off sides trap and sprung up the right wing where he held up the ball, played it around a pair of defenders Heymans for his second goal of the night a minute into stoppage time. The American fit into the team like he has been there for a season already.
Kortrijk and Hines-Ike will head north up the E17 highway to take on Gent in search of their first points of the new season, while Waasland-Beveren will stay at home in Antwerp where the city is on lockdown thanks to COVID-19. Standard Liege will make the trip up into Flanders and hopefully bring their masks with them.
Defending champions Club Brugge opened up their title defense at home and of course Belgian international Simon Mignolet was between the pipes for the team. This of course means that Ethan Horvath had to start this season as he ended the last one - riding the pine. The tightly contested game was won by Sporting Charleroi, thanks to a 78th minute strike from their man from Japan, Ryota Morioka.
Over the weekend the champs will travel to take on the team the furthest to the east of Belgium - AS Eupen. Being so close to the German border, they may have time to pop across for a schnitzel and a cold one.