Van Bommel misses first chance at title with Antwerp, now follows unprecedented climax
Antwerp failed to become Belgian national champions again after 66 years. Coach Mark van Bommel’s team should have won Sunday afternoon against Union to secure the title, but against ten men they came no further than 1-1.
Antwerp and Union both have 46 points. Racing Genk has one point less, after a 3-1 win over already eliminated Club Brugge.
Next week the decision will fall in Belgium. Antwerp will then play Genk away, while Union will take on Club Brugge at home.
Antwerp looked to be on their way to the title against Union, having taken an early lead through a goal by Vincent Janssen. Union found themselves down to ten men after just under an hour of play, but equalized in the 79th minute.
“We made no mistakes,” Van Bommel said afterwards. “But the facts are that we haven’t won the title yet. Fortunately, we still get a chance.”
“I lost a World Cup final myself in 2010. Then it takes four years before there might be a retake. This is different. We can still become champions next week,” Van Bommel said. “There is mental patch-up work needed, but we will continue.”
Plenty of Dutchmen at Antwerp
Janssen, Jurgen Ekkelenkamp and Calvin Stengs played in the starting line-up at Antwerp, where Gyrano Kerk was allowed to stand in in the closing stages. At Union, Bart Nieuwkoop played the entire match.
Antwerp will have to do without the suspended Stengs next week. In addition, the play of Janssen, who had to be sidelined with an injury, is uncertain.
“Those are setbacks,” Van Bommel said. “Calvin is definitely not there. He is a defining player, someone who can create something out of nothing. That’s a loss.”