On Easter Monday, Vincent Kompany‘s Anderlecht will square off against Gent in the Belgian Cup Final. The second meeting between the two clubs in less than a month, with this match arguably having more on the line. The first major trophy of 2022 in Belgian Football is up for grabs, and, of course, a European place. More on that in a bit.
This Belgian Cup Final preview will feature each team’s road to the match, their history in this competition, head-to-head matches this season, team news, and European implications.
Belgian Cup Final Preview
The Road to Brussels
Starting with Gent, Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s men had a comfortable run until the semi-finals. They came in at the round of 32, knocking off fourth-tier Belisia 4-0. The following round was a 2-0 success at second division Lommel. In the quarter-finals, they scored a 3-1 win over a Standard side that has had a season to forget. Gent then took on Club Brugge in the two-legged semifinals. After dropping the first leg at 1-0 at home, they turned it around with a convincing 3-0 victory over their Flanders rivals to reach the final.
Anderlecht also had their struggles at some points of their Belgian Cup run. After hitting seven past fourth division RAAL La Louvière in their first match, the Paars-Wit then required penalties to progress at Seraing’s expense in the round of 16. Kortrijk was next in the quarterfinals, with Christian Kouamé and Sergi Gómez finding the goals to put them through. The semi-finals were also far from straightforward, as a Lior Rafaelov penalty in stoppage time allowed Anderlecht to go into the second leg against Eupen on level pegging. The home leg was more comfortable, with three-headed goals being enough to down Eupen and return to a first Belgian Cup Final since the 2015/16 season.
Belgian Cup Final History For the Clubs
This is Gent’s sixth Belgian Cup Final, having won three of their previous five appearances. Their last match at this stage came in 2018-19, where they were defeated by KV Mechelen. At that time their opponents were in the second-tier, winning the title there as well. Gent were not completely empty-handed, as they were in part benefactors of Mechelen losing their UEFA license, enabling De Buffalos to enter the Europa League the following year.
The last Belgian Cup title for Gent came in the 2009-10 season. There, they got the better of Cercle Brugge 3-0 in a rather one-sided final. Elimane Coulibaly, Mbaye Leye, and Christophe Grondin were the scorers in that match.
For Anderlecht, it was the 2014-15 season when they last reached the Belgian Cup Final. It ended on a sour note, as a Lior Rafaelov strike in the 90th minute sealed the win for Club Brugge. It came moments after Aleksandr Mitrović had leveled the score. Of course, Rafaelov is now an Anderlecht player and is hoping for a cup win with a third different Belgian club, also doing so with Antwerp in 2019-20.
The last time Anderlecht hoisted the Cup trophy was in 2008 when they overcame Gent of all teams in the Belgian Cup Final. Battling from a goal down twice, it was a Guillaume Gillet strike that made the difference less than two minutes after Mbark Boussoufa drew the game level. Kompany was not part of the senior team at that point, having already moved on to Hamburg.
Head-to-Head Matches this Season
In recent seasons, matches between these two clubs often ended in draws, usually without many goals being scored. The first meeting at Anderlecht ended honours even, with a Rafaelov penalty cancelling Alessio Castro-Montes’ first-half goal to share the points.
In the other matchup just last month, it was Gent that was victorious. A Tarik Tissoudali shot with ten minutes to play made the difference between the two. In the end, Anderlecht had the last laugh as they made the title playoffs at Gent’s expense, the Flanders club dropping points the following round proving costly.
For Gent, a mostly healthy squad is available, leaving coach Vanhaezebrouck with most of his team to choose from. He could be without captain Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, recovering from an injury picked up within the last two games of the season. The only other player who is a doubt is defender Joseph Okumu, who is also trying to get to full fitness in time.
As for Anderlecht, there are three major question marks heading into Monday’s Belgian Cup Final match. Yari Verschaeren, Majeed Ashimeru and Sergi Gómez are all game-time decisions for Vincent Kompany. The three had injuries within the last two games of the season. Fortunately, there are more than solid backups in each player’s situation should they be required.
European Football Implications
Finally, what is on the line for both clubs outside of another trophy? The second of five European places made available to Belgian clubs via domestic football will be awarded to the winner. A spot in the Europa League playoffs is at stake for both teams. Should Gent win the cup, that place is theirs, as they are not in the Championship Playoffs thus being unable to snag a Champions League place.
However, if Anderlecht wins, they are guaranteed the Europa League place as a minimum, as they are in the playoffs for the title. Should they finish in the top two, the Europa League place would be given to the third-place team instead.
Furthermore, if Kompany does indeed clinch his first trophy as a manager, it would also guarantee Antwerp and Club Brugge places in Europe as they are both in the title playoffs along with Anderlecht and Union St. Gilloise, who have already claimed a European place as regular-season winners.
Gent, who are in a playoff themselves, could still make Europe in this case but would have to finish on top of the four-team Europa Conference League playoffs in order to do so. They would play in the Conference League instead of the Europa League.
Monday’s final will be a proper battle between two of Belgium’s top clubs from this seasons’ action. While both teams are worthy winners of the cup, only one can come out on top. Choosing a favourite will be challenging, as many betting sites have equal odds on both Gent and Anderlecht. The Belgian Cup Final kickoff is at 15:00 CET on Monday, with much on the line for both squads.
Belgian Cup Final Main Photo: