Sam Vines came off the bench for double-winners Royal Antwerp as they started the 2023-2024 season off on the right foot by adding their third piece of silverware of the year to their trophy case by beating Mechelen on penalties after the contest finished one all.
The Super Cup is the equivalent of the English Premier League’s Community Shield, played the weekend before the league kicks off. The winners of the Pro League face the winners of the Belgian Cup, however since the Great Old won both competitions, they went up against the runners-up of the Belgian Cup.
Michel-Ange Balikwisha scored early on for the hosts in front of their home crowd but it was in the eighth minute the Mechelen defense was exposed when Balikwisha picked out Jelle Bataille but the Belgian defender’s shot was blocked. But a minute later when Bataille returned the favor, the ball to his striker teammate was spot on, served up perfectly to be buried into the back of the net.
The Belgian Champions dominated the game in possession, shots, and corner kicks but they just could not find the goal to kill off the game. As a matter of fact, things went very badly for them starting in the 69th minute when their Argentinian defender Gaston Avila went it very hard on Nikola Storm’s ankle and was rightly shown a straight red card.
Going down a man, head coach Mark Van Bommel had to shuffle his deck and brought on Vines to shore up the defense. Down a man however and with the pressure from Mechelen in the 18-yard box, their central defender Ritchie De Laet put the ball past his own keeper to tie things up with just a dozen minutes left on the clock.
And that’s the way it ended. There is no extra time played in this cup game, so it came down to penalties and Vines was the first man to put the ball down on the spot. The defender shot left-footed and tried to place it into the right-hand corner, but Gaetan Coucke guessed the right way and was able to keep it from crossing the line.
Fortunately for the Antwerp faithful, Jean Butez was able to save a penalty of his own and watched another sail over his crossbar so in the end Royal Antwerp bested their opponents 5-4 in the shoot-out.
The Pro League season will get underway on Friday night with a Brussels derby when Anderlecht travels the short distance to take on Union St Gilloise. The Champions however will start the defense of their title on Sunday afternoon when they host Cercle Brugge.