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For Cercle, with Utkus, Waldo, Matondo and the suspended Da Silva Lopes, some key names were missing, but with the home team it was a lot more difficult to string together a starting eleven due to a raft of COVID infections. The hosts compensated for their lack of experience with a lot of enthusiasm and were able to make life difficult for Cercle for long stretches of time. Only in the final quarter of an hour would Cercle strike via Somers and Hotic and thus bring back the result.
Dino Hotic's corner kicks have been a guarantee of chances in recent months and such a corner formed the basis of the first chance of the match after 10 minutes, but Daland's header was cleared off the line by a Eupen defender. Cercle often tried to play quickly, using long balls over the top, but Agbadou and his fellow defenders kept the Cercle attack at bay. Thibo Somers would try his luck with a shot from range, but Himmelmann did well to keep it out.
Both teams struggled to keep the ball and chances remained scarce in the first half. Keita also tried his luck from distance, but his shot was no problem for Didillon. Just before half-time there was a chance when Olivier Deman headed a curling cross over the bar, but Himmelmann again had the situation under control.
Cercle started the second half sharply with an effort by Millàn and a huge chance for Senna Miangue. At the other end, Didillon had to clear a shot by Magnée over the bar. Kevin Denkey came on for Millàn just before the hour and impressed immediately. Agbadou blocked his shot before Thibo Somers fired his fine cross over.
The home team became more and more physical in the last quarter hour, but in the end it was a long throw that was the basis of the opening goal. Lambert's headed clearance came off the back of his teammate Amat and Somers reacted the fastest, hitting a volley that left Himmelmann no chance (77' 0-1). Cercle pushed on and a few minutes later the referee pointed to the spot after Magnée had fouled Olivier Deman. Dino Hotic kept his cool and doubled the lead for Cercle (0-2 81'). The home team's resistance was now broken and Cercle were still looking for a third goal. Somers' shot was blocked by a home defender and Kevin Denkey spent too long on the ball in stoppage time. The match thus ended 0-2, a logical result for Cercle, who continue its good form even after the win!
Eupen: Himmelmann, Beck, Amat, Agbadou, Gnaka, Nanah (Essahel 70'), Lambert, Magnée (Sternon 85'), Déom (Offermann 72'), Keita, N'Dri (Embaló 85')
Cercle: Didillon, Decostere (Vitinho 46'), Popovic, Daland, Miangue, Van Der Bruggen, Vanhoutte (Kanouté 86'), Hotic, Deman (Sousa 82'), Millàn (Denkey 57') and Somers
Matchday 21 was one played without supporters, something which made for very unfortunate circumstances for the Groen-Zwart as Boxing Day saw them welcome Club Brugge in the Bruges Derby. Cercle showed the best of themselves, though, and it didn't let the visitors get into their game. Early in the second half, Miangue gave Cercle the lead and just before full time, Sousa doubled it on a pass from the outstanding Matondo.
Cercle coach Thalhammer had some work to do for this Bruges Derby. After the away game against league leaders Union, he was missing the suspended pair of Daland and Lopes Da Silva, and the game came too early for a return on the part the injured Utkus. As a result, the defense consisted of Popovic and Sousa, who were flanked by Miangue, replacing Velkovsky. In the midfield, Vanhoutte was in the starting lineup alongside captain Van der Bruggen.
In a good first half it was an enthusiastic Cercle that had the best chances. Deman seemingly had the opening goal at his mercy but Mechele and Sobol kept him from scoring. His fellow striker Somers was also able to get a shot away, but Mignolet would keep things scoreless heading into the break. Club, for their part, were not able to get to grips with the game, even though Didillon had to tip a powerful shot by Vanaken over his goal on a pass from De Ketelaere.
For a long time it looked like Cercle would get a good result away to league leader Union Saint-Gilloise, but a mistake in added time left the Groen-Zwart empty-handed.
It didn't take long before the home team threatened for the first time at the Joseph Mariënstadion. The speedy Vanzeir was sent deep in the opening minute, but out goalkeeper Didillon did well to intervene. Cercle reacted via a corner kick: Utkus rose highest and quickly gave us the lead in the opening ten minutes. Union would remain the most dangerous team, but Teuma and Mitoma were unable to score before an effort from Undav went over the fingertips of Didillon and the crossbar. Then things improved for the Groen-Zwart. The speedy Matondo was picked out in the area and outwitted goalkeeper Moris and from a tight angle. Without playing the most aesthetically pleasing football, the Groen-Zwart fought for every ball and put the home team under good pressure. Vanzeir was able to threaten again shortly before half-time, but fired wide, and Cercle went into halftime with a 0-2 lead.
After the break, both teams had an excellent chance. After good build-up play by Matondo, Somers couldn't get the ball past Moris, and at the other end Nieuwkoop headed the ball against the crossbar from close range. However, our two-goal lead wouldn't last, as Union hit the target with their next chance. A looping ball landed at the feet of Mitoma, who slammed the ball into the roof of the net. Cercle continued to fight against a Union who were growing in confidence, but after a collision between Daland and Van Der Bruggen, Thalhammer had to use his second substitution out of necessity: Van Der Bruggen had a serious head injury and was unable to continue. Union showed no mercy and after a wild phase, Nieuwkoop leveled the score. The match remained exciting until the final bit of play, and the match was tied in extra time before a final dramatic turn. In a seemingly harmless bit of play, a misunderstanding between Daland and Didillon caused the Norwegian defender to tap the ball into his own goal. Cercle tried to turn the tide again, but were unable to beat Moris. Cercle were thus not rewarded for what was a great performance away to Union, the current league leader.
Union: Moris, Bager (Lazare 46'), Kandouss (François 86'), Van Der Heyden, Nieuwkoop, Nielsen, Teuma, Lapoussin (Avenatti 90'), Mitoma, Undav, Vanzeir (Marcq 96').
Cercle: Didillon, Decostere, Daland, Utkus (Sousa 20'), Velkovski (Vitinho 81'), Van Der Bruggen (Vanhoutte 63'), Da Silva, Hotic, Matondo, Deman (Millan 81') and Somers.
Goals: Utkus (8', 0-1), Matondo (24', 0-2); Mitoma (56', 1-2), Nieuwkoop (75', 2-2), Daland (OG) (91', 3-2).
After victories in Kortrijk and St-Truiden, Dominik Thalhammer made his home debut against Seraing. The match was an important one for the battle at the bottom and the Groen-Zwart responded well to continue their good form of the past few weeks. After 20 minutes, Hotic lobbed a ball into an empty goal after visiting goalkeeper Dietsch's poor attempt at clearing the ball. Just before half time, Lopes Da Silva doubled the lead, scoring the match's final goal with a well-placed shot.
Coach Thalhammer had little reason to change for the third match in a row; only the suspended Matondo was replaced, by Millàn.