A trip to Eupen marked the start of the league for our Kemphans. Despite a short preparation, both teams could look forward to the start of the season with confidence given the excellent results in the preceding practice matches. At KVC, we hoped to continue that good flow already with the familiar line-up from last season, supplemented by newcomer Jordan Bos as left-back.
Line-up KVC Westerlo: S. Bolat, M. Fixelles (92′ J. Bernat), J. Bos, N. Madsen, M. Gümüskaya (66′ M. Frigan), E. Daci (66′ K. Vaesen), R. Tagir, E. Jordanov, R. Neustädter, T. Van Den Keybus (92′ L. Van Eenoo), Y. Matsuo (83′ L. Stassin)
Like the many Westerlo supporters who travelled along, Erdon Daci was also looking forward to the new season. The North Macedonian, who was out for a long time last year with a cruciate ligament injury, was given confidence by coach De Roeck as attacking leader and was only too happy to seal that with a goal. Daci therefore started the game eagerly, but he could not really threaten home goalkeeper Nurudeen in the opening stages of the match.
At the other end, the Pandas did find their way to goal. A shot by Magnée was initially blocked by Bolat, but Van Genechten followed well and coolly tapped in the rebound.
However, the cold shower did not change the game. Westerlo retained most of the ball possession and continued to look diligently for an opening in the Eupen defence. Just before half-time, Gümüskaya seemed to have found one. After a good save by Nurudeen on a header by Daci, he pegged the ball hard into the roof of the goal on the resumption. The deserved 1-1 seemed a reality, but the linesman and VAR intervened for earlier offside by Daci. No equaliser for our Kemphans and so we went to rest with a 1-0 deficit in the East Cantons.
With renewed courage our Kemphans started the second half, but after a timid header attempt by Van Den Keybus, it was again Eupen that managed to shake the nets. Van Genechten – again him – was in the right place to work a rebound in, just like in the first half.
The ex-youth product of Westerlo thus looked set to be the death knell for yellow-and-blue, but a little after the hour our Kemphans were thrown an extra lifeline. Home goalie Nurudeen brought down Fixelles in the box and was penalised with a penalty. Madsen kindly thanked and neatly converted the eleven-metre. The 2-1 was a fact, our Kemphians got back into the game.
While KVC were still looking for a point with the contribution of Vaesen and Frigan among others, the home team on the other side were also looking for a penalty. Charles-Cook dived over Bolat, but was denied by referee Van Damme. On the opposite side, Frigan then again popped up in front of goal after a clever one-two with Vaesen, but his effort was worked into a corner by Nurudeen.
A minor league start seemed in the making, but that proved to be beyond the reach of substitute Stassin. The brand-new newcomer immediately showed his golden value by deftly tapping in the 2-2 in extra time. A well-deserved honour, which thus still earned a point in the opener of this league season.
Report: Glen Van Herck
Photos: Dha/Photo News