Antwerp (at least) returns to the top six for a while. It was the first reunion between the national champions and KRC Genk since the infamous title match and the match did not disappoint. Man of the match Michel-Ange Balikwisha did not score a hat-trick, but with two goals he did play a major role in the 3-2 victory with which Antwerp temporarily overcame Club Brugge in the standings.
Antwerp and Genk, those are the two teams that were both champions on the final match day last year, in Genk. The Limburgers virtually, the Great Old for the history books. And they are also the two teams that can present the best defensive statistics this season. After twelve match days, RAFC final piece Jean Butez and his colleague on the other side, Maarten Vandevoordt, had only conceded ten goals and they both had six clean sheets to their name. The harbinger of a dry 0-0, as there have already been two at De Bosuil this season? On the contrary!
Janssen can still do it
Vandevoordt was able to put a seventh clean sheet out of his mind after a handful of minutes after a nice Antwerp combination on the right. From Vermeeren it went to Bataille and he continued to Muja. The Albanian reached the back line and saw Janssen standing alone in front of goal. Perhaps McKenzie thought that the striker of the national champions had forgotten how to score after ten matches without a goal, but the Dutchman could not miss this. Also the end of his goal drought since September 15, it must have been good for Janssen.
A dream start for the home team, who had a great time on their right flank. After ten minutes there was another good collaboration between Muja and Bataille. His fellow back found it, but De Laet missed his shot, which ultimately became the perfect assist for Balikwisha. He happily accepted the gift for his hundredth match in Antwerp employment.
Genk responds, Antwerp scores
The visitors only woke up after that disastrous start and put Butez to work through Zeqiri and then through McKenzie. The American had a free-standing header after a corner, but Butez and Janssen worked together to keep the ball out of their goal. Zeqiri also failed to punish Vermeeren for a moment of nonchalance. The Swiss rounded Butez and hit the outside of the post.
Genk had taken over the initiative, but it was Janssen who shook the net again – after an earlier offside by his compatriot Ekkelenkamp. Not 3-0, even if that was just a stay of execution. Alderweireld put Balikwisha across the ground with one long pass just for the keeper, followed by a flawless finish. The linesman ruled it offside, the VAR saw Arteaga narrowly behind Balikwisha.
Tension by Bataille
Did Antwerp already have its sheep on dry land before the break? No, because Butez could also forget his seventh clean sheet. With ‘thanks’ to a camel from Bataille. He simply handed in to Zeqiri and the Swiss ensured that his team’s deficit at half-time was ‘only’ two goals. The VAR had also seen a penalty foul from Coulibaly on Heynen, but D’Hondt had a different opinion than his video assistant. So no eleven meters.
And that one goal kept Genk’s hopes alive. Just like Balikwisha’s curling ball that landed on the post. It could have been the first hat-trick of his career for the Great Old’s jubilee. Janssen then had to clear a Limburg header from the goal line twice and El Khannouss saw his low slider only miss by half a meter. The match had also become a bit more bitter, with an attack by Janssen on Paintsil’s ankle and a very hard intervention by Muja – both were punished with yellow.
To Porto with confidence
The Genk threat diminished, while Balikwisha saw his hat-trick once again hit the target wood. This time after a strong reflex from Vandevoordt. Hat-trick or not, Balikwisha could look back on one of his best games for RAFC.
Muja also missed a chance to score 4-1, but the victory was no longer in jeopardy for team number 1, also because D’Hondt blew the whistle immediately after Muñoz’s 3-2. Antwerp sneaks into the top six again, although Club Brugge can still leapfrog Antwerp. The difference between Genk and Antwerp is only one point. Mark van Bommel and his team head to Porto with confidence, which lost 0-1 at home to Estoril on Friday.
ANTWERP: Butez – Bataille, Alderweireld, Coulibaly, De Laet – Vermeeren, Yusuf – Muja, Ekkelenkamp, Balikwisha – Janssen.
KRC GENK: Vandervoordt – Munoz, Cuesta, McKenzie, Arteaga – Galarza, Hrosovsky – Paintsil, Heynen, El Khannouss – Zeqiri.
REPLACEMENTS: 62′ Galarza and Zeqiri by Bonsu Baah and Arokodare, 73′ Ekkelenkamp by Kerk, 77′ Cuesta by Fadera, 84′ Janssen by Van den Bosch, 91′ Hrosovsky by Ouattara, 97′ Muja by Ilenikhena.
GOALS: 5′ Janssen 1-0, 11′ Balikwisha 2-0, 41′ Balikwisha 3-0, 45′ Zeqiri 3-1, 99′ Munoz 3-2.
YELLOW CARDS: 45+2′ Paintsil (kicking the ball away), 45+5′ Hrosovsky (deliberate foul), 47′ Janssen (serious foul), 51′ Muja (late tackle), 68′ El Khannouss (protest) and Yusuf (breaking down attack), 93′ Bonsu Baah (break attack).
REFEREE: Lothar D’Hondt.