After the 0 out of 9 at the champions ball, it will be extremely difficult to get anything on Tuesday in Portugal, but Antwerp certainly won’t give up yet. And last weekend, when the chairman turned seventy and the team presented him with a victory, hope flared for various reasons. “We are not going to suddenly knock Porto off the mat, but we are still going to try to achieve a result.”
First victory in top competition
0-0 draw against Ghent, 2-2 at Union, 1-0 loss at Anderlecht and 2-1 at Club Brugge. The top matches – including Champions League – have not been good to Antwerp this season. But against Genk they were able to get the three points for the first time on Saturday. “We deserved more in a few of those top games,” Mark van Bommel immediately countered, “but this was a fantastic match – because Genk gives away space just like us, respect for that – and I am very satisfied with our performance.” The start in particular was very strong. The Genk left flank was rolled up twice, resulting in a quick 2-0. “We know that El Khannouss likes to come in and so it was up to Jelle (Bataille, ed.) to go full throttle on the flank.” In collaboration with Muja, the right back prepared the goals of Janssen and Balikwisha. Even after the 3-0, the Great Old had to remain on his guard – “Genk has so much quality, it can always score” – and it was lucky that the ball did not hit the spot after a mistake by Coulibaly on Heynen – but it held stand and won well deservedly.
Janssen finally scores again
Before the match, he had not scored for 842 minutes – the longest drought of his career. And the question was whether George Ilenikhena, twelve years his junior, would not start after his three goals in four matches. But Van Bommel still held on to Vincent Janssen (29) and that turned out to be a good move. After five minutes, the Dutch striker had already outsmarted McKenzie and pushed the ball in from close range. He then made it 2-0 with an excellent cross pass with his ‘inferior’ right. He also kept the Genk defense going for ninety minutes and he was even Antwerp’s best defender, by blocking the line three times. “George did well and is getting used to our way of playing, but I chose Vincent because he also has a lot of qualities. He is playable, annoying, holds balls, moves the game, …” Only that one tackle, on Paintsil, was borderline heavy. Red could have been done, his coach also realized. “But that’s also his style. Helping, running, flying: he does everything for the team. I don’t understand why people doubted him.”
Porto loses to Red Lantern
The Estadio do Dragão may be haunted, but FC Porto is not invincible, as it turned out on Saturday. It actually went down at home against red lantern Estoril (0-1). The thirty-time champion played with his strongest eleven – except for the injured left wing Wendell/Galeno -, had 70 percent of the ball and created chances, but the ball would not go in. Taremi soon missed a penalty and Sergio Conçeicão said: “Even if we played an hour longer, we still wouldn’t have scored.” After the defeat, the Portuguese coach went wild. He held a mirror up to the entire club and especially targeted the medical staff. “The last two years we have always had five to ten injuries,” he said. “I am ultimately responsible, but all our departments have to move up a gear.” Maybe Antwerp can also benefit from all that fuss? “Oh,” said Van Bommel. “We should not think that we are going to knock Porto off the mat. But we will still try to achieve a result. A draw is a good thing, winning is a celebration, but losing can of course happen.”