The green grass of ’t Kuipje would become the battleground of the final sprint towards the Play-Offs. In an unadulterated topper against superpower Club Brugge, they fought not only for honor and glory, but also for a spot in the coveted Play-Offs. In the Lotto Park our Kemphans already proved that they can sell their skin dearly in that battle and now they wanted to do the same at home against Champions League-revelation Club.
Line-up KVC Westerlo: S. Bolat, M. Fixelles (72′ I. Vetokele), N. Chadli (64′ T. Dierckx), L. Van Eenoo, M. De Cuyper, K. Vaesen (64′ N. Madsen), B. Reynolds, R. Tagir, R. Neustaedter, Thomas van den Keybus, Y. Matsuo (90′ P. Perdichizzi)
A busily gesticulating Rik De Mil saw his team start the game best. The visiting team claimed possession of the ball, but got no further than a few pinpricks and stray crosses, which allowed Bolat to hone his sterling stats of goalkeeper with most cleared crosses in the Jupiler Pro League.
The game only really gained momentum from minute 20. After a header by Vanaken – the first ball between the posts in this match – Bolat had to roll up his sleeves three times on attempts by Rits, Lang and Jutgla.
With half-time gradually approaching, Westerlo got more out of Club’s squeeze. With a long-distance shot by Van Eenoo that went just over and a blocked shot by Vaesen, the Kemphans also managed to approach Mignolet’s goal for the first time.
Just when the crane of the Soudal Sky Seats was getting ready to bring our special extra supporters back down for an enjoyable halftime snack, Ferran Jutgla suddenly turned up in front of Bolat’s goal, but the Spanish striker collapsed under the pressure of the fast-rising Westel goalie.
A also in the second half busy gesticulating De Mil inspired the away team to push the gas pedal again after halftime. Our Kemphans were pressed backwards, but could once again count on goalkeeper Bolat, who managed to defuse both a double effort from Spileers and a blast from Noa Lang.
Het Kuipje began to churn and while coach De Roeck wanted to change the composition of his team with the introduction of Dierckx and Madsen, VAR also spiced up the match with some extra salt and pepper. A skilful shot by Jutgla managed to outsmart a hitherto unpassable Bolat and looked to be going for the 0-1, were it not for a foot from De Cuyper that put a stop to it. Not so according to the linesman who started flagging enthusiastically, but so according to the man in the van, who quickly punctured Bruges’ revelry.
The VAR intervention gave a boost to our Kemphans, who were now looking for a goal themselves. The pressure on Mignolet’s goal increased and the match became more acrid, with a rapid succession of yellow cards for Fixelles, Mechele and Jutgla, among others.
De Roeck too saw that Westerlo was beginning to regain more and more control of the match and threw in an extra striker with Igor Vetokele. His colleague on the other side had the same reflex some time later, with the contribution of Yaremchuk.
Still, it was a defender who provided the biggest chance in the closing stages of the game. Meijer pushed through on the left flank but once again this evening found a strong goalkeeping Bolat in his path. The Turkish goalie was fiercely booed by the Bruges supporters before the game, but for 90 minutes he was the bogeyman for every blue-black attack attempt. Thus, after the 0-0 against Anderlecht, our Kemphans gained another point in an unadulterated topper, of which we may soon get three more in Play-Off 2 at ’t Kuipje. The sealing of a wonderful season by KVC.
Report: Glen Van Herck
Photos: Luc Meynaerts