A hat trick for Hotic and Denkey drive Cercle to a win in Gent
Making his debut as head coach, Miron Muslic took three points back from the Ghelamco Arena after a wild second half. Before halftime, Denkey had opened the scoring for the Groen-Zwart. After the break, Gent drew level, but Hotic gave Cercle the lead again by netting a hat trick.
After the dismissal of Dominik Thalhammer, Miron Muslic faced a baptism by fire as head coach of the Groen-Zwart. The Austrian set his side out in a 3-4-3. He brought back Somers on to play on the right flank. In the center there was a place for Charles Vanhoutte, at the expense of Hannes Van der Bruggen. He was given the captain's armband and took up his post alongside Da Silva Lopes. Up front, Deman and Denkey were asked to score the goals, had Hotic supplying the service.
The match was deadlocked for a long time by two teams who battled hard in midfield. Halfway through, Castro-Montes found Depoitre on the edge of the box. The striker turned and shot. He saw his attempt come off the far post but Majecki was first to an attempt by Cuypers.
Immediately after that, a goal came at the other end. Deman was able to continue get forward on the left on the counterattack and brought the ball in low in front of the goal to Vanhoutte. The Cercle captain found Denkey who slotted home.
Gent offered little in return, to the frustration of the home crowd. Vanhaezebrouck brought out his team at the start of the second half unchanged. For the Groen-Zwart, Van der Bruggen replaced Vanhoutte, who had given a lot and remained in the dressing room having taken a yellow card.
The Buffalos would then draw level early in the second half via Cuypers. The striker was made a deep run at the right time. Majecki came out of his goal, but couldn't reach the ball. He did manage to push the Gent striker away from goal. He had to cut back inside from the back line, but he was able to beat the goalkeeper from a sharp angle.
Where there had been no fire in the first half, the match came to life after the break. On the hour a strong Denkey won yet another duel against the Gent defence. He played the ball perfectly in to Hotic who shot the ball hard past Roef.
10 minutes later the Buffalos drew level again via Cuypers. Samoise sent in a cross, but Daland and Marcelin both just couldn't reach the ball and the Ghent striker scored his second of the afternoon.
The Groen-Zwart continued to work tirelessly and again Denkey put the ball in for Hotic. From just outside the box he scored his second of the afternoon beating Roef into the far corner. But again Gent would draw level via Depoitre.
Due to the many goals, the game was completely open with just over ten minutes left. Both teams were still trying to pull a win out of the fire. Three minutes before time there was a good cross in from Hotic to Van der Bruggen, who was brought down in the box.
Play continued and Denkey got another chance to head the ball in, but VAR ordered referee Smet to the screen to rewatch the play.
There was a clear push in the back of Van der Bruggen, and the ball was put on the spot. Hotic completed his hat-trick and gave the Cercle fans who had traveled with him a moment of delirium after a very intense match.
Gent: Roef, Okumu, Ngadeu, Hong, Odjija, Cuypers, Castro-Montes, Samoise (Hjulsager 74'), Kums (Fofana 91'), Depoitre and Godeau (Hanche-Olsen 79')
Cercle: Majecki, Daland (Ravych 91'), Popovic, Denkey, Hotic, Vanhoutte (Van der Bruggen 46'), Da Silva Lopes, Deman, Marcelin, Torres (Ueda 72') and Somers (Heitor 64')