Oof! Antwerp records a difficult, but deserved victory in Kosovo and can go to the third preliminary round of the Conference League

Oof!  Antwerp can go to the third preliminary round of the Conference League after Kosovar fairytale

Antwerp got the job done in Kosovo thanks to… a Kosovar. Laurit Krasniqi (21), child of the Balkans and the Bosuil, headed the redeeming goal after the break, after which Balikwisha made it 0-2 in the final seconds. Make no mistake: it was a butt squeeze. But the double confrontation with Lillestrøm is a fact.

If the boss is watching you, you always make an extra effort. Well seen from Paul Gheysens, who landed his private jet in Pristina yesterday afternoon. Wife Ria was also present and she explained before the match that they absolutely wanted to come and support the team. Íémand had to do it, because the Antwerp supporters were not welcome. They were at home, on their penalty bench, looking for a live stream.

Few surprises in the base. Mark van Bommel unpacked at the open training with a 3-5-2 with Janssen and Frey in the front, but ultimately opted for the well-known recipe. So a 4-3-3, but with Balikwisha instead of Miyoshi. But in one of the corridors of the Fadil Vokkri stadium we saw the Japanese doing ground exercises beforehand – he may not have been in top shape.

Butez important

What did it matter? Didn’t Antwerp have to wash this pig anyway? “We want, must and will continue,” said CEO Sven Jaecques. “It would almost be a shame if it doesn’t work out,” said Ritchie De Laet. But hey, it’s football. And after 33 seconds, Drita already had his first corner. The Kosovar fans right next to us all bounced straight, and rightly so. It also led to the first chance. Blakçori kicked over.

The Great Old – perhaps surprised at so much attack – was immediately warned. It responded with a nice bang from Nainggolan – whipped equally cleverly from the corner by Maloku – and with attempts from Benson and Alderweireld. But guys, how well it got away in the fifteen minutes. After Gerkens lost the ball and a lack of organization in the back, Muja suddenly came face to face with Butez. It was that the Frenchman was aware, because otherwise the 1-0 would have been a fact.

Van Bommel also had to blow a bit. And it was constantly paying attention, because Drita really looked dignified. And Antwerp, that could show far too little of its quality. A pass from Balikwisha could have ended up in the farthest corner, but otherwise…? The bad field right?

Fled after the war

At 0-0 it was important to be patient, Nainggolan had told us. And so the players certainly didn’t come out of the locker room after the break. Didn’t have to, as it turned out. Benson saw his shot blocked but was finally able to send a dangerous cross from the right. And who had gone all the way there and headed the ball against the ropes? Krasniqi! No, it was not Besnik Krasniqi’s own goal, but Laurit Krasniqi’s very first Antwerp goal. The 21-year-old youth product, given his chance and caught by problems at the left back, was already thrilled that he was allowed to go to his native country, which he had to flee as a boy in the aftermath of the war. To score in front of his family too? A fairytale.

It remained to be seen whether that fairy tale would have a happy ending. Drita’s were upset, but not yet defeated. Benson forgot to make the 0-2 moments later and so it remained exciting. A rehearsed free kick could have easily equalized the score. squeezing the buttocks. Even with a sudden counter, five minutes before time. There were still plenty of hot positions at Butez’s goal. And so Van Bommel was only certain after Balikwisha’s 0-2 in the absolute final seconds. Certainly of the victory, certainly of the third heat against Lillestrøm. Antwerp is already going to Norway next week.




Photo: BELGA



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