FEATURE | BeNe in Europe – Matchday 1 Review: Ajax and Belgian clubs make perfect starts

The first matchday occurred across the UEFA club competitions with eight teams from Netherlands and Belgium participating. With the increasing importance of collecting coefficients throughout the season, every result matters.

Here is a look back at how each club did and how many points Netherlands and Belgium obtained throughout the week.

Solid week from Dutch clubs, positive start

The four Eredivisie clubs in the group stages had a good week overall. Between Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord and AZ, the Dutch clubs hit an overall record of 2-1-1.

Ajax impressed in their Champions League opener as they defeated Rangers 4-0 at home. It was just the start the Amsterdam side would have wanted, with a pair of games against Liverpool and Napoli ahead.

PSV were not fantastic in their match at home to Bodø/Glimt, but they did enough to grab a point. Down a goal at the interval, hot prospect Cody Gakpo levelled the score for the hosts, who will be disappointed to have not earned three points.

Feyenoord were the only Dutch club to lose this week, falling to Lazio 4-2 in Rome. Arne Slot’s side could hardly have asked for a worse start, going down 3-0 inside the first half hour. By the time they got their consolation goals, it was too little too late.

AZ were the other side to get a victory, beating Ukraine’s Dnirpo-1 with a goal from Danny de Wit. The 63rd-minute marker was the only one of the match, giving the Alkmaar-based team the perfect start.

In total, the Netherlands earned 1.000 point courtesy of Ajax and AZ’s wins plus PSV’s draw. France (1.500) managed to find a bit of breathing room between themselves and the Dutch. The difference between the two countries for fifth spot is now 1.564 points.

The Netherlands’ principal rival for sixth, Portugal, also claimed 1.000 points through the performances of their clubs this week. The Portuguese still find themselves 2.051 points behind the Dutch, with a lot of work to be done.

Belgian clubs sparkle, one of the best performers

The Belgian teams managed to impress this week, with three wins and a draw among the four teams. None of the sides conceded either, something no other country with multiple teams left in Europe can claim.

Club Brugge got their fifth straight Champions League campaign off to a flying start, getting past Bayer Leverkusen 1-0. It was 19-year-old Abakar Sylla who made the difference, nodding in a corner just before halftime.

Union St. Gilloise pulled off an impressive victory at the expense of Union Berlin in the German capital. Senne Lynen scored the only goal of the game as the battle of the Unions went the Belgian side’s way.

Gent were the only Belgian team not to win this week as they played out a 0-0 stalemate with Molde. The first half had tons of energy and was back-and-forth, but the Norwegians couldn’t make the most of home advantage.

Anderlecht left it late against Denmark’s Silkeborg. A Fabio Silva penalty was the difference maker as the record Belgian champions claimed a 1-0 success at home. It was Anderlecht’s first group stage win in Europe since the 2017-18 season, where they beat Celtic on Matchday 6 of the Champions League.

With the three wins and the draw, Belgium accrued the third most points of any country this week, only being outdone by Spain and France. A whopping 1.400 points out of a possible 1.600 was earned.

Belgium’s successful week means they are now in ninth place in the five-year coefficient list, passing Austria. All three Austrian teams drew this week, delivering them 0.600 points. The two countries are level over the five years, but Belgium has earned more points this season, thus holding the tiebreaker.

Serbia fell further behind Belgium with Partizan’s draw being the only result to win them points this week (0.250). It leaves the Belgians 2.625 ahead of the 11th place Serbs, who will need much better showings should they wish to catch their rivals again.

The other good news for Belgian football fans is that Scotland, still sitting comfortably in eighth, did not manage to earn any points this week. All three teams were beaten, none of them scoring. It is still a 3.400 gap between eighth place and ninth/tenth, but that lead could evaporate if the events of this week become a trend.

David Parkes

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