Belgian champions RSC Anderlecht warmed up for their Champions League qualifiers with a reasonably convincing 1-0 victory of last year's Belgian Cup winners KAA Gent at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. A goal from talented midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate just after the half-hour proved decisive in Gent manager Francky Dury's first competitive game since moving from Zulte Waregem to replace Michel Preud'homme who took over at FC Twente.
Had one not been following the Belgian press recently, you’d never have guessed that Mbark Boussoufa had stressed greater importance on the Champions League qualifying. Paarswit came flying out of the starting blocks with Boussoufa sending Thomas Chatelle clear down the right and his shot cannoned against the crossbar with a shellshocked Jorgacevic nervously backpedalling.
Gent almost capitalised on a lax piece of play from Anderlecht when Biglia’s ball in the direction of Boussoufa was smartly anticipated by Marko Suler, who nipped in with the Moroccan on his heels. His dinked cross over the top found Coulibaly, who stooped for the header but could only direct the effort wide, impeded by the imposing Davy Schollen in goal.
Yassine El Ghanassy, a poor man’s Boussoufa at this stage of his fledgling career, showed he was a danger when he danced past three defenders before taking out a fourth with a delicate through ball to Coulibaly, whose cutback was shanked wide by the onrushing Christophe Lepoint. The wing play of Boussoufa and El Ghanassy had the purists, shorn of beautiful football in South Africa, purring with delight and the former almost scored a superb goal but for a return cross from Matias Suarez that went astray.
The champions took the lead on 31 minutes after one of their trademark lightning-quick counter attacks. Lucas Biglia waited for the exact moment to thread the pass through to Cheikhou Kouyate who kept his cool and slotted the ball past Jorgacevic. Biglia was partly able to time the ball with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker thanks to the rangy running style of the long-legged Kouyate who causes defenders to always take a half-step back, thus making it more difficult for them to tackle him.
Anderlecht repeated their strong start in the second-half with Biglia scratching his head as to how he failed to double the lead with the Gent defence simply unable to cope with the quick ball circulation of the champions. Gent are also known for their attacking prowess and they did create a number of chances, however a combination of brave keeping from Schollen and wayward finishing ensured Anderlecht's clean sheet remained intact.
On a slightly lighter note, there was a heartfelt round of applause from the home fans when Jan Polak made his long-awaited return to competitive football after a serious ankle injury. He replaced Sacha Klestjan who was tidy enough and looked solid technically, but the American will clearly take a few weeks, if not months to find his feet in Belgian football.
Anderlecht face Welsh champions The New Saints in Wrexham on Tuesday whilst for Champions League debutants Gent a far trickier opponent awaits in the shape of Ukrainian side Dinamo Kyiv, who are seasoned Champions League regulars.