Top football in an empty stadium: we all saw it abroad on television, it was Belgium’s turn on Saturday evening. The main stand of the King Baudouin Stadium was filled by a handful of board members, the press and security people. The fans were replaced by flags – Club Brugge filled a grandstand, Antwerp had to do less. The players entered the field and the Brabançonne sounded, otherwise you only heard the television commentator echoing through the stands. All very strange, but unfortunately nowadays there is no other way because of corona.
The feeling that we were still in the middle of the preparation was only intensified during the match. Because Club Brugge: what was that in the first half? Antwerp countered the national champion completely, Club did not get a ball between the posts before the break. After 20 minutes, Mignolet should have intervened four (!) Times, of which three were difficult saves. Mbokani, Hongla and De Laet always saw a good chance turned after a sharp counter-attack. Club had 65 percent possession of the ball, but the pace was oh so slow. Contrast a reborn Lamkel Ze, a cunning fox like Mbokani and an ultra-motivated Refaelov and you will have problems. The fact that the Israeli slipped into the opening goal against his ex-club in the 25th minute after excellent work by Juklerod and Lamkel Ze, was just as well deserved for Antwerp. And again mess was at the root of Club.
An unrecognizable Vanaken, Diatta without rhythm and a disastrous Balanta: they did not give all at home. The latter was trumped too easily in the 0-1, but he was certainly not alone at Club. At times it seemed as if Clement’s men had completed a tough workout in the morning. There was no doubt that after the break there had to be tapped to change the first double since 1996.
Antwerp has to fold back
After the break, Club pulled more forcefully: it immediately decorated a shot via a pale Okereke, who was replaced five minutes later by the young Badji. But also Antwerp was not unaffected, because just before that substitution Mata Mbokani had to keep a goal in the nick of time. On the field it suddenly became a real cup match. Gradually Antwerp had to collapse to accommodate Club: The Great Old got physically difficult and Badji became involved. In the 65th minute, his header was just saved by a hand from Matijas, five minutes later the Antwerp goalie had to ram a flame from outside the sixteen out of his cage.
Clearly Clement had done well to throw the young Senegalese in front of the lions. And moments later he intervened again: with Schrijvers for Sobol, he changed from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3. Club then had less than 20 minutes to put things in order while the castle of Antwerp started to show cracks.
We got an even more exciting conclusion where Antwerp had to squeeze the bottom several times: both Diatta and Schrijvers just couldn’t score. But Club Brugge no longer came up with great opportunities, so Antwerp won its first prize since 1992. Club Brugge, which was painfully surprised as a favorite, has to wait at least another year for a new double. Antwerp can now go directly to the group stage of the Europa League, Charleroi plays the preliminary rounds.