Sunday, 23 February 2014

KV Kortrijk 1 v 2 RAEC Mons

Saturday 22nd February 2014
Belgian Pro League
Guldensporenstadion, Kortrijk
Admission: 15 euro
Programme: Free
Attendance: 6,189
Match Rating: 2.5

After booking another bargain £10 return ticket to Gent with Megabus, after the timing of this weekend's fixtures had been determined, I was left with a choice between a visit to either KV Kortrijk or Cercle Brugge. Although a visit to one of Belgium's most famous stadia, the Jan Breydelstadion that was used in Euro 2000, was tempting, the low crowds that Cercle attract in 30,000 capacity stadium swayed me instead towards a relatively small and less well-known stadium, that has been highly recommended by fellow groundhoppers.

The Guldensporenstadion is about a 15 minute walk north from Kortrijk train station. Having purchased my ticket online, for a 1 euro surcharge, collected it at a booth adjacent to the main entrance. Once inside, there is a very pleasant, spacious area for fans to mingle, with numerous chalets scattered around offering refreshments and club merchandise, and a couple of indoor bars lined to one side. Although there is a covered terrace behind one of the goals, I chose to sit on wooden bench style seating behind the other goal to be sure of good views. Both ends were close to full for this game, have steep inclines and are located close to the pitch, ensuring excellent views (although the terrace has some obstructing pillars) as well as making for an intimate and loud atmosphere. The main stand along one side is the most modern structure of the building, single tiered all-seating, with a row of rather swanky looking executive boxes and bars along the top, whilst along the other length is a more old fashioned and much smaller all-seater stand with quite a few supporting pillars. Glossy full colour programmes were given out upon entering the ground and was a very pleasant surprise, containing season's results, league table, likely line-ups, as well as various articles in Dutch and a lot of advertising. It also says everything about how ridiculously overpriced watching football even at non-league level is in England that the cost of entry to this top-flight match in Belgium was less than I paid for a step two non-league game at Dover last week.

This game, between a Flemish team and a Wallonian one, certainly looked like a nailed-on home banker, considering that Mons have had a disastrous season so far, strangely after their best ever finish last season of seventh. They are ten points adrift at the bottom this season, losing their last five league games and have only picked up three wins from their 26 games so far this season and barring a mathematical miracle, will be contesting the relegation play-off series with the second bottom team in a few weeks time. Kortrijk went into this game in eighth place in the sixteen team league, still harbouring faint hopes of reaching the top six and a Championship play-off place, seven points adrift with four games left to play. They have only picked up two points from their last four league games though, and just one win from their last twelve games, not winning at home since 2nd November. When these two teams met in Mons back in late October, Kortrijk won 0-1.

Although weather conditions this evening were still and not too cold, the pitch has certainly taken a hit from the recent poor conditions, with plenty of bare and sandy patches, with plenty of bobbles in evidence. Surprisingly, right from the start, it was the struggling visitors who were on the front foot, as the pattern emerged of Kortrijk looking really laboured, sloppy and slow to react, with Mons looking bright and doing most of the attacking, but were let down in and around the attacking penalty area. However, on 36 minutes the visitors took a deserved lead. A free kind from deep was headed away, falling at the feet of Thomas Chatelle just outside the area. He took a few touches before curling a lovely cross into the box and Noe Dussenne reacted quicker than the defenders to head the ball past the keeper.

0-1 was how it remained at half-time, a surprising but completely deserved scoreline. As expected, the home side upped the tempo after the break and looked more threatening, and they got an equaliser on 55 minutes. A long ball from their own half was flicked on, taking two covering Mons defenders out of the equation, allowing Steyn de Smit - who had only been introduced to the action at half-time, ran onto the ball before firing low past the keeper into the corner of the net. Kortrijk were dominating proceedings now, however Mons had the best chances to score on the break, on 62 minutes seeing a header from a cross just going over the bar, and on 69 minutes, a powerful header from a defender forced a reaction save from his own keeper. With time ticking by, Kortrijk looked less and less likely to score a winner and Mons looked happy with their point as they engaged in time wasting tactics. However in the fourth minute of added on time, the ball was crossed on the run from the left by Pieterjan Monteyne, which evaded several defenders allowing Shlomi Arbeitman to head home from close range at the far post, to cue wild celebrations. It was to prove virtually the last touch of the game to secure a rather stunning victory for struggling Mons, but the result seemed to be on the cards throughout thanks to Kortrijk's lethargy. The three points will do little for Mons in terms of league position, as they are consigned to the relegation play-offs barring a mathematical miracle, but they will hope that confidence will be raised from this game to take forward. Kortrijk will surely now have to make do with a Europa play-off spot. Although this game was not the most entertaining, a visit to the Guldensporenstadion was an enjoyable experience, with a pleasant feeling amongst the plans and there is a feeling that the club is in tune with its supporters, illustrated best of all when the players later went to the bar underneath the seated stand after the game for a disco. Whilst the stadium did not make me drool, it still had a nice old-school feel to it, which made it a refreshing change from modern stadia.

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

No comments: