MICHAEL ADUBATO - Sunday, May 17, 2009
Oguchi Onyewu and Liege win and set up a play-off series to determine the Belgian championship, while neither Yank in Brugge was able to make their professional debut this season as the Jupiler Pro League season ends.
Gent 0 - 1 Standard Liege
In a must-win game, Les Rouches did just that thanks to Axel Witsel's 45th minute strike from the penalty spot, that now puts the Belgian champions into a home-away play-off with Anderlecht after Les Mauves overcame Racing Genk to leave both teams at 77 points and a tie for the top spot.
Oguchi Onyewu went the distance on the back line, adding yet another clean sheet to the team's resume, even though they were forced to play without a pair of regular defensive starters. Things could have worked out differently however just nine minutes into the game if Croatian striker Zlatan Ljubijankic could have done better with his free header inside the box.
The visitors broke the deadlock just before the intermission after Witsel was fed the ball into the box by the French winger Benjamin Nicaise. As Witsel struck it, a defensive hand made contact in the area and Liege were awarded the penalty.
Unlike last week, the young Belgian Golden Boot winner won the debate with Milan Jovanovic over who would take it and thus did the honors. Although he guessed the right way, Gent's keeper Bojan Jorgacevic was unable to save the goal.
The heated battle continued in the second half in the Belgian rain, but neither side was able to add any more goals to the game, leaving Les Rouches with the victory and the chance to still claim the league title.
The big American defender could have ended his Liege career on a dubious note after fouling Kenny Thompson in the box and giving up a penalty to the Buffaloes, had it not been for the spectacular save by Sinan Bolat to preserve the win.
With the loss Michel Preud'homme's men find themselves leap-frogged by Club Brugge for a third place finish however, fourth is still good enough to give them a spot in the Europa Cup next season.
Onyewu will have to delay his return to the USA for another week as Standard travel to Brussels this Thursday for the first leg of the play-off game that will determine the title. The return leg will be played at the Sclessin on Sunday, May 24th in Liege.
Jared Jeffrey was an unused sub in Club Brugge's 4-1 win over Mouscron. The win sees them finish third in the league for a place in next season's Europa Cup.
Patrick Lane stayed glued to the bench as Cercle Brugge's beat Roeselare 2-1, thereby ending their campaign in ninth place.