The three Belgian clubs went into last night’s games in fairly confident mood and for one, Anderlecht, it was justified. The Brussels boys defeated Sturm Graz to record their ninth successive victory. The goals came from Matias Suarez – the Europa League’s leading scorer – and Guillaume Gillet, who is the Anderlecht player who’s always the first to talk to the Francophone press. Gillet has been getting lessons from Dieumerci Mbokani for his – becoming famous – goal celebration (based on a popular dance track). Anderlecht should wrap up qualification when Sturm Graz come to Brussels in early November. That will probably signal a shoulder operation for Lucas Biglia and maybe (!) a few run-outs for promising players like Dennis Praet and Nathan Kabasele.
Standard Liege were probably not feeling too good after receiving a 5-0 thrashing from Anderlecht but they really should have beaten Ukraine’s Vorskla Poltava. The visitors only arrived at 1 a.m. on the morning of the match and didn’t see the pitch until the warm-up. In the event, Standard treated their fans to a poor performance and keeper Sinan Bolat was moved to ask the fans to support the club rather than abuse the players. The end result was 0-0 but luckily Standard still top the group due to other results. New coach Jose Riga is already a taget for disgruntled fans.
Club Brugge have been one of the best two teams in Belgium this year – with Anderlecht – and probably thought the match with Birmingham would be tough but that they would be strong enough to triumph. In the event, Brugge started brightly and took the lead. Gradually though, Birmingham gained control in midfield and deservedly equalised. The game was mared by a serious injury to Spanish defender Pablo Ibanez (thought to be OK now) and there were 10 minutes of extra time. In the 100th minute, Birmingham’s Chris Woods hit the winner. The result doesn’t mean that Club Brugge are a bad team, but it does show they need to be more professional and focus until the final whistle. It will be interesting to see how the return match works out in Birmingham. Great to see so many travelling Birmingham fans.