From The Touchline: A Belgian Special

From the Touchline

It’s not every day that From the Touchline flips on the Jupiler Pro League, but with the Championship playoffs on, now is a good time to catch up on Belgian football. So like Roberto Martinez, we discretely took in the Club Brugge / Oostende match this week to see if the home club could put pressure on Anderlecht for the championship.

Michel Preud’homme’s squad faced a challenge coming into this match. Despite sitting third in the table, FCB had not won a match in two months. The four results prior to this match were two draws and two losses, and one of those losses was over the weekend to Anderlecht. The scoreline had been 2-0, but the dominance of Anderlecht in the match meant 6-0 would not have been an unreasonable result. In response, the legendary keeper made five changes to his starting XI. After the match, he defended his decisions in the post-game interview: “I opted for fresh players to play football freely and to take the pressure off the shoulders of others.”

Their opponent on the evening also were on a long losing streak. Oostende came into the match having drawn Gent on the weekend and barely lost to Anderlecht prior. Preud’homme set-up his club in a 4-2-3-1. Jelle Vossen was the target man with Jose Izquierdo to his left, a position that would be vital in this match. From the first whistle, Brugge held most of the possession and used their formation to press the visitors. While early on they had the majority of chances, they rarely pressured keeper Proto.

The match turned in the 15 minute. On a ball into the box Oostende’s Dimata was able to score a goal via a header and grab the visitors an early 1-0 lead. The home crowd was audibly nervous as the club again fell behind and was playing poorly overall. In response, the manager switched his formation to more of a 4-3-3 which allowed his wings to move incrementally closer to the goal on the attack. While moving your attacking players forward is an obvious adjustment when trying to score, in this case it as particularly well timed. Preud’homme had seen his #9 on an island and his attacking players making runs forward, but often only one player was in the box or in position to handle a cross. When his wings moved forward, he basically dared Oostende to break on the wings when Brugge lost possession.

Brugge drew even on a hustle play. On a shot on goal, Proto knocked it down and away, but in front of the goal where Vossen could poach an easy goal on a distracted defence. About two minutes later, Brugge again was applying pressure when a cross in from the right side of the box found the feet of Izquierdo on the right. Earlier in the half, the Colombian may not have been in that position but by moving up, he was in prime position to strike the ball past the keeper into the net. He’d add a third later in the match, but the quick and obvious adjustment halfway through the first saved the home side. As of now, Brugge sit in the Europa League spot but are a point behind Gent for the second Champions League spot. The much-needed victory keeps the dream of Europe alive despite a long, poor run of form.