Anderlecht knows peace of mind. The match was mediocre, but the Purple & White beat a weak Antwerp 2-1 and is at least certain of third place. This will give access to the preliminary rounds of the Conference League. That mission has been successful, but Kompany and co are secretly hoping for even more. Still overtaking Union and finishing second.
When the Anderlecht board prepares Vincent Kompany’s report, how will it judge? Beforehand, some drivers may have dreamed that the Purple & White would compete for the title this season, but that turned out to be too ambitious. RSCA already has at least the bronze medal in its pocket and is therefore better than last season’s fourth place. At least it’s on stage. That is not quite enough to practice with, but the club should not be ashamed either. There was also the – albeit lost – cup final.
Last season, the Purple & White did not win a single match in the Champions’ play-offs. Now it has already doubled the size of Antwerp. Though it wasn’t that unusual either. The Great Old has really collapsed like a pudding. After the 0-4 defeat at the Bosuil, coach Brian Priske made no less than five substitutions. Big names such as Frey, Benson, Haroun, Desolleil and Bataille stayed on the bench, but that hardly helped. Anderlecht were able to tap the ball around without an Antwerp player putting his foot against the leather. At halftime you could see how Brian Priske held top meetings in the players tunnel with Nainggolan, De Laet and Seck. That did not give a confident impression. What would Paul Gheysens and Marc Overmars think of this? Looking even harder for a new coach?
The calf had already drowned before Antwerp. De Laet and Almeida had each sent a hospital ball, after which Anderlecht were able to score twice. At the first goal, Joshua Zirkzee dragged the ball away wonderfully, after which he was hooked by Seck. It was Sergio Gomez who converted the penalty. From the spot RSCA has not missed a single time in the competition: 8 out of 8 penalties. It is unbelievable that it did not work from eleven meters in the cup final. At the 2-0, Zirkzee served Amuzu again, who decided next to the grab-and-go Butez. Ciske is on fire.
According to the German football magazine Kicker, Joshua Zirkzee will certainly return to his mother club Bayern Munich this summer. Anderlecht will miss the Dutchman anyway, because he already has 18 goals and 13 assists in all competitions combined. He often directs the attack and offensive power will be needed when the inhabitants of Brussels dive into Europe.
Ironically, that better third place doesn’t entitle you to better European tickets than last season. Then RC Genk won the cup and the Limburgers finished above Anderlecht. As a result, the European tickets moved, but that is not the case now. If the Purple & White want to make it to the groups of the Conference League, it will have to struggle through two annoying preliminary rounds again.
Unless Anderlecht realize another miracle later. With this win against Antwerp, the inhabitants of Brussels are now within four points of Union St-Gilloise. Next Sunday, the city rival is coming to Lotto Park. Imagine for a moment that RSCA wins that duel. Then the difference narrows to one point with one game to go. Could Kompany and co still become vice champions and make it to the CL preliminaries? It is still a very unlikely scenario, but on Sunday the Brussels honor is also at stake. Anderlecht really can’t afford to lose to a PhD student four times in one season.
The home team will have to play better than in the second half, because after the break Anderlecht also offered very little. At first it got away well when Samatta was offside and Frey’s goal was disallowed.
But when Hendrik Van Crombrugge misjudged a corner, Seck nodded in the 2-1. Is Van Crombrugge’s back not quite better after all?
However, the Brussels victory was no longer in danger. The story of Antwerp in this Play-off 1 is completely over, while Anderlecht still start the unexpected hunt for Union St.-Gilloise. Dreaming is allowed.