Who would have thought this? Antwerp easily defeated the unbeatable Racing Genk in the quarterfinals of the Croky Cup: 0-3 and a place in the semifinals! Two top matches, two victories: 2023 couldn’t have started better for Mark van Bommel. “We play them from pillar to post”, the branch sang.
During the start of the season, they could not be beaten away, but now it has been a while since Dutch journalists have been to the Bosuil. However, the Dutch are writing a success story at Antwerp…
Take the 0-1 last night, after barely a handful of minutes. A counter goal. Or as trainers prefer to say: a goal from the switch. Stengs drove the ball forward, Ekkelenkamp opened the gap with an excellent run on the right, allowing Janssen to be served. The striker did not hesitate: his icicle went into the top corner. We do know that we were skeptical about Janssen at first, but he has now proven to be among the best nines in the competition. At Antwerp, he stands out deep in the front: Frey is immediately a lot less.
Racing Genk was sloppier than usual, not helped by Antwerp’s good block, and it was therefore difficult to create opportunities. Not coincidentally on a corner there was the best possibility: Butez had to unpack with a nice parade to keep Cuesta from the equalizer.
Just before half-time, Antwerp took a solid option for the semi-final. After a corner, Alderweireld was able to cross, in the box Ritchie De Laet – absent against AA Gent in the competition due to a suspension – put his instep against Vandevoordt: 2-0.
Love for De Laet
It was not surprising that De Laet went to celebrate with the Antwerp supporters – the supporters created a nice atmosphere, they sang constantly. The fans have never let De Laet down – he is one of them -, although the Antwerp resident has not always had it easy this season. At 34 he is gradually getting older and purely playing football he may not fully meet the new, higher standards at RAFC. It does not alter the fact that De Laet can still be of value: he has an insane amount of grinta and club love.
Antwerp’s double lead was good. We are not necessarily the greatest fans of the avalanche of statistics in modern football, but here’s a figure: Genk’s last defeat at home dates from May 15, then against AA Gent (0-2). To illustrate how long that was already: the Genk coach was then still Bernd Storck, now working at KV Kortrijk. The team included guys like Bongonda, Ito and Thorstvedt. They too have closed the door of the Cegeka Arena for a while now.
Balikwisha with ball
But bon, there was still a half to be played and anything is always possible in cup football, so it was not the case that Antwerp had to count itself rich already. It was to the credit of Mark van Bommel’s men that they didn’t just think about defending. Antwerp was rewarded for this: Ekkelenkamp served Balikwisha with a beautiful through ball over the defense. The finish of the left winger, who in our opinion could go deep more often, was also fine: he scored in a controlled way (0-3). Match played after less than fifty minutes, Arteaga still hit the crossbar.
The visitors’ section summarized the evening as follows: “We play them from pillar to post.” Genk also had its moments, but it is true that Antwerp never got into trouble.
Antwerp is two games away from a new final in the Croky Cup. It was also on the Heysel in 2020, when the Great Old Club Brugge knocked, but that triumph took place in full corona period. There was no big party with the supporters, while those people yearn for it.
Should Antwerp actually reach that final battle in the King Baudouin Stadium, then we dare to bet that the press gallery is full of Dutch people. Rightly so, by the way: the orange Reds are doing really well…