Toby Alderweireld delivers Antwerp their first title since 1957 with dramatic late strike

After 90 minutes against Genk, Antwerp were 2-1 down and had just six minutes to save their title challenge. For the majority of the first half they were in control of the title, but after Tolu Arokodare gave Genk the lead, their opponents were on course to take the trophy. Just a minute after half-time, news came through that Union St Gilloise had taken the lead in Brussels, meaning that the trophy was now heading there.

Antwerp just had to match Union’s result, and when Gyrano Kerk equalised for them they just needed one goal. However, Bryan Heynen then restored Genk’s lead, and as the clock ticked towards the 90th minute in Brussels, Antwerp needed to find two goals quickly. Union, just needing to hold on against a Club Brugge side with nothing to play for then saw Shion Homma score an equaliser. Antwerp now just needed one goal, but Genk just needed to hold on to the 2-1 lead to win the title themselves. It got better for both sides in Genk when Noa Lang gave Club Brugge a 2-1 lead as Union pushed for a winner.

The game in Brussels was going into extended added time, but had started ahead of the game in Genk. Yet now, Union were pretty much out of it, having to win to stand any chance of taking the title. Antwerp threw everything at their opponents, with Mark Van Bommel sending Toby Alderweireld up front. The move paid off, with the captain smashing in an equaliser from the edge of the box in the 94th minute. It sparked pandemonium in the away end, on the bench and for the fans back home in Antwerp. A pitch invasion was taking place at the Bosuil Stadion, but Genk still had a chance.

However, when the former Red Devil scored it felt like the inevitable had happened. Antwerp had had a chance last week against Union, but saw their lead slip away against 10 men with under 10 minutes to go. This time, they were the side striking late. When the final whistle went, there were a few anxious minutes as the game in Brussels was still going on. Union, so often to team that defies logic, could not do so again. Pushing, they conceded a third goal to Cisse Sandra and their race was run.

Antwerp, for the first time since 1957, have won the league title. The side that spent years in the second tier of Belgian football has completed its comeback.

GBeNeFN | Ben Jackson

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