Van Bommel’s Antwerp takes Belgian title after insane final minutes

Van Bommel’s Antwerp takes Belgian title after insane final minutes

NOS Football

FC Antwerp has become national champions for the first time in 66 years after a crazy ending to the Belgian playoffs. For a long time, Mark van Bommel’s men seemed to be missing out on the title, after it also went wrong at the last minute last week.

Thanks to a wonderful goal by Toby Alderweireld in extra time, Antwerp still took a point at Racing Genk, and because Union St. Gilles failed to win at home against Club Brugge (1-3), the trophy, which travelled by helicopter from place to place, ended up in Antwerp’s hands.

Watch post-match interviews with Toby Alderweireld and Mark van Bommel below.

Alderweireld’s 2-2 was the apotheosis of some insane minutes in Genk and Brussels, in which the virtual title was rapidly changing hands. Union thought they had the spoils with a 1-0 lead, but still let Club Brugge take the cheese off their hands at home.

That was right up Genk’s alley again, heading for a home victory over Antwerp, enough to pass both Union and its direct opponent on the final day of play. But that was again reckoned beyond Alderweireld’s formidable strike, which allowed the ‘Great Old’ to capture the national championship after the national cup.

Three title contenders

Antwerp thought they already had the championship last week, but saw ten-man Union St. Gillis come alongside ten minutes before time through an unfortunate own goal by Arthur Vermeeren. The 1-1 at the Bosuil meant that suddenly three clubs were back in the race for the national title.

Coach Van Bommel’s men still had everything in their own hands on a visit to Racing Genk, but the hosts, with only one point less, were firmly in the lurch. And Union, with the same number of points as Antwerp, was also still in with a chance, but in the event of a draw it would still be in the clear because it had not performed as well as the leaders in the regular competition.

Toby Alderweireld is applauded

Vincent Janssen, with Jurgen Ekkelenkamp and Gyrano Kerk providing the Dutch contingent in the starting lineup at Antwerp, had a best chance to open the scoring within fifteen minutes, but the 28-year-old Brabander’s effort, good for 18 goals this season, missed the target by a good meter.

In Brussels in the first half, Simon Adingra and Victor Boniface were dangerous on behalf of Union against the “outplayed” Club Brugge, but the former shot just wide and the latter found goalkeeper Simon Mignolet in his path.

Genk strikes

Both crucial matches were heading for a 0-0 halftime score, until on the stroke of halftime Genk struck against Antwerp. Toluwalase Arokodare took full advantage of inadequate coverage by the guests during a breakaway and, after good preparatory work by 19-year-old Moroccan international Bilal El Khannous, chased the ball high into the corner: 1-0.

At this interval, Genk would be the laughing third, but it also suddenly offered chances to Union. After all, the team promoted to the highest league two years ago needed a defeat by Antwerp to still have a claim to its first title since 1935.

Simon Adingra (left) put Union ahead 1-0

It then had to win by itself, and that path was taken in the very first minute of the second game when Adingra passed Mignolet with a slide into the far corner: 1-0.

The task for Antwerp, which could not have former AZ player and seven-time Dutch national Calvin Stengs at its disposal due to a suspension, did not get any easier. However, they regained hope when Kerk appeared in the enemy penalty area and the ball bumped into the goal via the foot of Genk player Pablo Cuesta: 1-1.


Antwerp seemed to be buoyed up by the equalizer, but suffered another setback 15 minutes before time. Mike Trésor headed back a cross and captain Bryan Heynen finished.

At Union, the goal was received with cheers and the party in the stands quietly took more exuberant forms. But Club Brugge disposed differently. Dutch international Noa Lang crossed, Jack Hendry headed back and the just-installed Japanese Shion Homma rounded.

Disillusionment with Union player Bart Nieuwkoop

Gone are title chances for the team, which also failed to top the league table last season and even ended the season with a 3-1 defeat thanks to goals by Lang and Cisse Sandra.

Genk seemed to be on a roll. Until 34-year-old Antwerp captain Alderweireld got involved and popped the ball toward the store hook.

Kayleigh Williams