Painful, such a finale without fans. Fortunately, there was Ria, the wife of Paul Gheysens. After the warm-up, she already put a heart to the players of Antwerp from the main stand. Among them Lamkel Zé, who … was in the base. We felt it coming and effective: Ivan Leko took the gamble. The players thought theirs, but had to “put aside their ego”, says the coach.
In the first half Leko got a surplus from the right. It was silent on the Heysel, except when Peter Vandenbempt spoke or Lamkel Zé got the ball – then it was all hands on deck at Club Brugge and then the few hundred attendees knew what to chat about. The Cameroonian immediately gave a perfect assist to Mbokani, who found Mignolet on his way up close. We were barely six minutes away and it should have been 0-1. Not much later, Hongla tried from a distance and flew his deviated shot.
Surprisingly, the opening quarter was completely for the ‘visitors’, who set up a wall in the back but sometimes broke out at lightning speed. Juklerod also came close to the opening goal, but again there was Mignolet. Club really couldn’t do anything about that. Diatta did not get past his man, Okereke did not hit a ball in the front and where was Vanaken? Nowhere. Antwerp was able to keep countering and in the 25th minute it finally led to a goal.
Lamkel Zé – he again – gave in perfectly with Juklerod, who stormed on the left, only went to Mignolet, but laid wide to the detached Refaelov. The Israeli, the ex-Bruggeling, slipped the ball into goal. Ten red shirts flew together, the whole sofa sprung up, like those thousands of supporters in front of their screens. 0-1 against the Dutch champion, 0-1 against the best team in Belgium: the stunt was officially in the making. Club also created a decimal point zero in the final quarter of the first half. And Lamkel Zé? He got the laughs on his hand when he lay on the floor outside the lines, allegedly injured, but ‘secretly’ rolled inside the line. Showman.
It was obvious that Philippe Clement would not wait long to intervene. Five minutes after the break, he pulled Okereke to the side and brought Badji. It took a while, but the barely 18-year-old Senegalese created the first goal danger for his team. He nodded nicely towards the square, but Matijas came out with a good save. This also allowed the young Croat to fill up with some extra confidence. He needed that when Badji lashed out a little later. Again Matijas stood firm.
Antwerp had to survive for another twenty minutes for its first prize in 28 years. Mignolet was repeatedly concerned with time-saving, but all in all it was not so bad. It made sense, of course, that he got nervous. Opportunities did open up now, but they were missed. For example, Diatta headed over a cross by the substitute Schrijvers and shot the same Schrijvers just wide. Leko nevertheless retained confidence in his starting eleven and only changed in the final minutes – Rodrigues replaced Lamkel Zé, Nsimba came in for Refaelov. Normally these were applause changes.
Gheysens and D’Onofrio
Six minutes were added, but Antwerp held on. And the party – in Brussels and in the living rooms and briefly the cafés in Antwerp – started. Paul Gheysens and Luciano D’Onofrio were seated apart, but could nevertheless fall into each other’s arms. The Croky Cup is their first prize, the Europa League groups their reward.
What an entrance for Ivan Leko. The man who already won the title with Club, now takes the cup with Antwerp. He is the third trainer to succeed, after Walter Meeuws (1992) and the late Harry Game (1955). The Croat needed one match to make history. Although this cup is of course also a bit of Bölöni.
David Van den Broeck