Both the Championship and Conference League playoffs got underway over the weekend in Belgium and both Sam Vines and Mark McKenzie found themselves in the starting lineups for their respective teams.
These were the first games where all teams will play a total of six, with home and away fixtures against the other three teams in their groups. Vines and Antwerp still have an outside chance of winning the Belgian title although Club Brugge and Union St Gilloise are the strong favorites, while McKenzie and Genk are looking to win their group and then another playoff to gain a European place.
To better understand how these playoffs work, click here for a full explanation:
Club Brugge 1 – 0 Antwerp
Starting the playoff group in fourth place, five points behind the leaders USG, Royal Antwerp really needed something out of this game if they planned to make a run for the title.
It was not to be however as Vines, who went the distance, and his team were beaten by a solitary goal that was struck by Tajon Buchanan. This was the Canadian’s first goal for the team that he joined in January from New England Revolution.
The hosts first real shout was after 26 minutes when Andreas Skove Olsen was played down the middle and beat a few defenders but when he pulled the trigger from just inside the 18 yard box, he sent it just wide of the near post.
His Canadian colleague had no such problem however. Buchanan’s ball was played into the box and the former New England Revolution man latched onto it, sidestepped a couple of markers and dinked it into the back of the net for what would turn out to be the game winner in the 37th minute.
The visitors didn’t put up much of a fight, managing just two shots on target and 43% of possession. To make matters worse, their defender Abdoulaye Seck picked up his second yellow card of the game in the 90th minute, so will not be available next week.
Next Sunday Antwerp will be at home for a matinee against league leaders, Union St Gilloise. The Brussels-based team beat neighbors Anderlecht 3-1, which sees Antwerp move up to third place.
Gent 0 – 1 Genk
Mark McKenzie played the full 90 minutes for Genk as they try to finish top of their group in hopes of returning to Europe again next season.
The Smurfs’ opponents honestly had nothing to play for since they clinched the Belgian Cup last Monday. The Cup also comes with an automatic Europa League place, which is a lot more prestigious than the Conference League place that this group is fighting for.
A strong Buffaloes team was still put onto the field and battled against Genk for the duration. The visitors dominated, getting off 13 shots to Gent’s three, and dominated possession with 62% of the ball.
It took until the 91st minute for the game winner however when Joseph Paintsil picked out his Hungarian teammate, András Németh who put it past the Buffaloes keeper. The hosts did themselves no favors when Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe picked up a second yellow card after just 35 minutes.
Next up for McKenzie and company is a Friday night home game against Mechelen, who were victorious over Charleroi. Genk is currently in second place, two points behind Gent.