BeNe in Europe: Belgian brilliance, Dutch delight

It was yet another successful week in Europe for the BeNe clubs as Feyenoord, AZ, Union St. Gilloise, Gent and Anderlecht all took part in crucial games. In what was an excellent week for both countries, here is a look back at what went down and what it means from a coefficient standpoint.

Belgium: Seasonal coefficient record beaten

Three Jupiler Pro League teams took the field after each drew their first leg. With everything on the line, it has been several years since Belgium was in such a situation in Europe.

The week started with Gent facing Istanbul Basaksehir in Wednesday’s sole Europa Conference League match. Moved a day forward due to a city clash with Fenerbahçe, Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s side faced a difficult meeting in Turkey. After a fairly quiet opening 30 minutes, Gent ended the tie by halftime. Once again, striker Gift Orban was the hero. The Nigerian netted the fastest ever hattrick in UEFA club competition history, achieving it in just 3 minutes and 24 seconds. A fourth was added shortly after, which confirmed Gent’s place in the quarterfinals. Basaksehir got a consolation goal close to the end, but there was no denying De Buffalo’s. They take on West Ham in the quarterfinals.

On Thursday, Union St. Gilloise hosted Union Berlin after a thrilling encounter in Germany the week before. Despite having the lead three times, it was not enough for USG to hold on. This time, three goals was sufficient for Carel Geraerts’ men in a 3-0 win on the night. Captian Teddy Teuma got the scoring started inside 20 minutes. Jean Lazare Amani doubled the advantage at the hour mark, before the Ivorian assisted Loïc Lapoussin at the end to seal USG’s qualification. Their next opponent will be another Bundesliga side in the form of Bayer Leverkusen.

Of the three Belgian sides, none of them had it harder than Anderlecht. Heading to Spain with a 1-1 draw from the first match, Villarreal was still the overwhelming favourite against the record Belgian champions. Another strong performance from 20-year-old Bart Verbruggen helped Anderlecht in this one as the visitors held firm. Fifteen minutes from the end, Islam Slimani got on the end of Amir Murillo’s cross to score the only goal of the game. Les Mauves held on to progress at The Yellow Submarine’s expense. Next up will be AZ in what will be a fascinating matchup.

Belgium earned the maximum number of coefficient points they could from last week’s games. The three wins totalled 1.200 points (0.400 each), while Union’s progression in the Europa League added an extra 0.200. Overall, Belgium took home 1.400 points, bringing their seasonal total to 13.400. That is a record, beating out the 2016/17 total of 12.500.

There is still the possibility of reaching 18.300 points if the three clubs win their remaining matches (Anderlecht and Gent would meet in the Conference League semifinals if they both get past the quarterfinal). Regardless of what happens in the subsequent rounds, it has been nothing short of a phenomenal year for Belgian football in Europe.

Netherlands: Sixth place virtually assured

Feyenoord and AZ continued their European action on Thursday as both looked to make another quarterfinal. They could not have asked for a better day.

Starting the action on Thursday was Feyenoord in the Europa League. Having drawn the first leg against Shakhtar Donetsk, Arne Slot’s side had a great opportunity to progress. That is exactly what the Rotterdammers did, and in devastating fashion. It was utter domination from Feyenoord from the get-go, as they were ahead inside 10 minutes. By the half, they added two more. Midway through the second half, they were up 7-0 against the Ukrainians. The away side would score minutes from the end, but that did little to soften the blow. Feyenoord goes through with an 8-2 aggregate win. Next will be a familiar foe in Roma, who beat them to the Conference League title last May.

AZ hosted Lazio in one of the late games on Thursday, looking to reach the quarterfinals of the Conference League. Winning the first leg 2-1 in Rome, a glorious chance awaited the Eredivisie club. Although Felipe Anderson put Lazio in front 20 minutes in, AZ was not to be denied. Jesper Karlsson scored shortly after to put Pascal Jansen’s team back ahead on aggregate. Vangelis completed the turnaround in the second half, allowing AZ to score another 2-1 win against the Serie A team. As mentioned earlier, AZ will now take on Anderlecht in the quarterfinals.

The wins from Feyenoord and AZ brought in 0.800 points for Netherlands. Add in the former’s progression to the Europa League quarterfinals, and the Dutch ended up with 1.000 more point added in total. Although Netherlands cannot match last season’s record-breaking 19.200 points, their current seasonal total of 12.500 is still a solid number. A maximum of 4.800 can be added before season’s end, allowing for a maximum of 17.300 points on the year.

The better news for the Dutch is that the distance between them and Portugal for sixth place is now just over 3.000 points. While Benfica and Sporting CP are still in Europe, they can only give their country 4.000 more points maximum. In fact, Netherlands can assure sixth spot after the next set of games if they get at least 0.400 points more (at least a win or two draws). What can be concluded is that this season has been another success for Netherlands in Europe.

David Parkes

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