While the regular league ended at home in’t Kuipje against Club Brugge, the first home match in the Europe Play-Offs saw us visit city-mate Cercle. Among the 11 yellow-and-blue hosts at kick-off, Mathias Fixelles fell out miserably in the last minute. The only man on the match sheet who already managed to score a goal in this competition had to miss out injured.
Line-up KVC Westerlo: S. Bolat, N. Chadli (76′ M. Gümüskaya), N. Madsen (46′ T. Dierckx), M. De Cuyper, B. Reynolds (76′ E. Jordanov), L. Van Eenoo, R. Tagir (46′ P. Perdichizzi), R. Neustaedter, T. Van den Keybus, D. Nene (83′ G. Yow), Y. Matsuo
The shock of Fixelles’ late injury had barely been digested, or our Kemphians were already suffering a second blow. Hotic found the free Deman on the left flank and his low cross was deviated into goal by Somers in one time.
On the quarter-hour mark, another setback followed for our Kemphans. Referee Visser saw a foul by Reynolds on Marcellin in the sixteen and decisively pointed to the spot. Cercle striker Ueda gratefully accepted the gift and worked his 19th goal of the season into the ropes.
As the rain poured down harder and harder, the volume of the Westel crowd went up as well. The extra vocal support inspired Dorgeles Nene to make a quick breakthrough midway through the first half, but Cercle goalie Majecki plucked the ball out of the feet of the fast striker.
The picture of the game gradually began to tilt and those in the main stand were able to increasingly turn their heads towards the visiting goalkeeper’s goal. When Reynolds was sent deep after a technical highlight by Van den Keybus, the equaliser even seemed to be in the making, but his cross was slipped just wide by Chadli, who also ran deep.
Three minutes later, it was a winner. Van Eenoo’s shot was initially saved by Majecki, but in the rebound Dorgeles Nene poked the ball into the goal. ’t Kuipje was on fire again, our Kemphans smelt blood.
Like a thunderclap in – a by now not so – clear sky, however, it was Cercle again that managed to add a dash on the scoreboard. Lopes Da Silva had clearly studied the footage of Fixelles last week at Gent well and now struck himself with a looper of a distance shot.
Once again our Kemphans had to scramble straight, but barely 2 minutes later they were dealt another blow. After a scrimmage in the penalty area, referee Visser again pointed to the spot. VAR called the man in blue to the screen, but Visser stuck to his decision. This allowed Ueda to score his second eleven-metre of the afternoon. 1-4, a tough job awaited our Kemphians in the second half.
Fresh blood had to provide a fresh load of chances in the second half. Dierckx and Perdichizzi came on in place of Madsen and Tagir.
Right from the first whistle, Westerlo grabbed the visitors by the throat. Our Kemphans looked for an opening in the green-black defence, but each time a foot, leg or other part of the body stood in the way of a connecting goal. At the other end, Bolat then managed to shake a good reflex out of his left sleeve on a rare counter-attack through Ueda.
The momentum was clearly in KVC’s hands and it was eventually Dorgeles Nene who provided the deserved tying goal after long insistence. The flame went out again, the faith in ’t Kuipje rose again. The visitors groaned and had to resort more and more to time-wasting and fouls, but referee Visser kept the cards in his pocket.
While Westerlo went in search of a goal, it was Cercle that could cheer again in the end, when a dropped ball landed at the feet of Somers, who, like his striker buddy Ueda, managed to put his name on the scoreboard for a second time.
No two without three, must have then shot through the head of Dorgeles Nene. He completely revived the game a quarter of an hour before time with an unparalleled distance shot into the top right corner. With his hat-trick, he once again created belief in the stadium and while our Kemphans once again went in search of an extra goal, the visitors looked for all kinds of ways to take the pace out of the game.
However, our Kemphans did not let themselves get out of their stride again, but an extra goal did not come. Thus, referee Visser whistled off this spectacle-rich match after 90 minutes with a 3-5 final score. A tough verdict for our Kemphans, who showed a great warrior’s heart today.
Report: Glen Van Herck
Photos: Luc Meynaerts