Survival was the message for a battered AA Gent. OH Leuven monopolized the ball before half time, but it was Gent that took the lead via Cuypers. The home team fought back in the match after the break and equalized thanks to a eleven meter from Gonzalez. Gent groaned but held his ground, although he didn’t make much headway with a point. Number four Union now has eight points more.
Pletinckx (concussion) was still missing from OH Leuven, Ouedraogo was his expected replacement. Immediately his first base place since the beginning of September on a visit to Anderlecht. Vanhaezebrouck brought five fresh forces between the lines for the Buffalos. Cuypers, Kums and Hong had fully recovered and were allowed to start the match, just like Nurio and the returning Owusu.
Three days after the narrowly avoided debacle in Dublin, Ghent hoped to regain some confidence, but it was the home team that immediately showed its offensive intentions: Kyine sent a flawless cross in the opening minute but Gonzalez headed just wide. The Ghent defense was immediately warned.
OH Leuven very emphatically claimed possession in that opening quarter, but when Cojocaru blundered, Hong got a unique chance to open the score. His attempt, however, went wide. A little further on, the detached Hjulsager was rightfully sulking, the Dane immediately got a second chance after a wrong intervention by Ouedraogo, but this time Cojocaru was on the alert.
Gent gradually balanced possession of the ball, but it was difficult to score goals together. The home players also failed to craft a goal-ready opportunity. All too often technical mistakes and unfortunate choices ensured that an attack by either team was thwarted at an early stage.
No, it never got really exciting before rest. Yet Ghent struck with halftime in sight: Cuypers worked the ball against the nets after a weak intervention by Cojocaru – put under pressure by Samoise. The Ghent fans cheered despite the linesman’s flag signal, but after a VAR intervention the 0-0 disappeared from the scoreboard. It was almost 0-2 at halftime, but ref Visser saw an alleged mistake by Samoise, which meant that Cuypers’ goal was cancelled.
Work to be done for the Marc Brys team and it was almost equal immediately after the break. Gonzalez cleverly served Patris, but Nardi’s corner kick was neutralized. There is no lack of commitment and conviction at OH Leuven, but just like before the break, the whitemen were all too often caught losing the ball.
Gonzalez ruins the Ghent party
Brys then threw Thorsteinsson into the fray and he immediately showed himself with a wonderful passing movement on the back line, but the Icelander reached no one with his cross. OH Leuven systematically increased the pressure and Gent barely got out of its defensive position. Cuypers therefore increasingly imagined himself on an island. The Ghent striker barely got any usable balls, let alone that he got into scoring position.
And then Visser pointed to the dot. Owusu did indeed hit Patris in the Ghent sixteen. The VAR looked at the images for a while but confirmed the decision. Gonzalez face to face with Nardi and ‘El Pistolero’ shot the French goalie of the Buffalo’s (1-1). Vanhaezebrouck immediately intervened and made a fourfold substitution.
Moments later, he also swallowed a yellow card when he protested a bit too much at a decision by Visser. OH Leuven smelled blood and when Gonzalez was released in the Ghent sixteen, an excellent Nardi was needed to save the Ghent furniture. Leuven pushed further and the home supporters threw in some extra decibels.
Ghent moaned but survived the Leuven stampede. There was even a winning goal from Okumu. Afterwards there was no question of joy with the Buffalos. A look at the ranking shows that a ticket for the Champions Play-offs is again a bit further away. At Leuven, people were left with an unsatisfied feeling: two out of twelve is too meager.
Goals: 42′ Cuypers 0-1, 73′ Gonzalez (penalty kick) 1-1
OH Leuven: Cojocaru, Patris, Ouedraogo, Ricca, Mendyl, Malinov (85′ Keita), De Norre, Maertens, Tamari, Kiyine (62′ Thorsteinsson), Gonzalez (85′ Nsingi)
AA People: Nardi, Okumu, Ngadeu, Godeau, Samoise, Owusu (76′ Marreh), Hong (76′ Odjidja), Kums, Nurio, Hjulsager (76′ Salah), Cuypers (76′ Depoitre)
Yellow cards: 47′ Ngadeu, 55′ Malinov, 72′ Kums, 80′ Maertens, 80′ Hauge, 80′ De Norre, 88′ Keita, 90′ Godeau, 90′ Ouedraogo, 90′ Odjidja
Referee: Lawrence Visser