An 85th minute equalizer from Guillaume Gillet salvaged a late point for Anderlecht as they saw their 11-game winning streak come to an end in a fiercely contested derby that saw three dismissals.
The pre-match talk may have surrounded Anderlecht’s talisman Dieumerci Mbokani – who watched from the stands after missing his flight back from South Africa – but it was their captain that rose to the occasion to fire home the opener inside two minutes.
Biglia was influential in the opening stages, dropping deep to pick up possession and ignite Anderlecht’s attacks. He was able to do so with ease as Standard opted to play very deep, inviting Anderlecht pressure in the hope of catching them on the break.
Whilst on the subject of the Anderlecht midfield, opting to play a 4-3-3 (against Standard’s 4-4-2) always meant they’d dominate the midfield battle, however as Biglia began to dictate the play, Standard had to make an attempt to close him down. In doing so they the Standard midfield showed signs of raggedness and disarray – with the wide-men tucking in in an attempt to stop the Anderlecht pressure.
Again, this had its consequences. Anderlecht’s wide-men, Bruno in particular, were dominating the wide battles. Bruno’s pace pushed Van Damme back in an attempt to gain an extra yard. Bruno’s penetrative runs between Van Damme and his central defensive partner meant Mpoku was forced back – now providing next-to-nothing going forward.
Anderlecht had Standard exactly where they wanted them – with van den Brom getting it tactically perfect.
But after confusion in the Anderlecht back line, Batshuayi was played onside and sent through one-on-one with Proto before coolly slotting home to stun the home fans.
Anderlecht’s dominance soon began to wear and it was Standard who began to pile on the pressure. Then after being ushered out of play, Milan Jovanovic reacted angrily, pushing Daniel Opare to the floor with the referee having no choice but to send him off. Coincidentally, Jovanovic had begun to cause problems for the Standard defense, cutting inside with diagonal runs forcing Opare to follow him and creating space for Deschacht to overlap into.
After the break Anderlecht made changes in personnel, bringing on Kanu and Odoi in place of Bruno and Praet. However, interestingly the Anderlecht boss opted against adding cover to the exposure left by the dismissal of Jovanovic. Bulot, who instigated Standard’s victory over Anderlecht earlier in the season, began to take advantage of this – causing havoc down the Anderlecht left side.
The pressure eventually told as Bulot got the better of the Anderlecht full-back crossing to find Buyens who headed Standard into the lead. A fear of deja-vu began to loom throughout the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium as Anderlecht tried to find an equalizer.
Their cause was helped as Standard’s combative midfield Vainqueur was sent off for a second yellow as it became 10 vs. 10. Standard may have feared that Anderlecht would pile on the pressure but Standard stood strong – as Anderlecht began to get frustrated.
The red card in the centre of the Liege midfield meant they were in danger of getting overrun and hence the wingers were forced inside – providing cover and essentially forming a midfield three. This, in turn, meant that Anderlecht’s full-backs began to progress un-challenged swinging in cross after cross.
The game began to have a scrappy feel to it as both sides began to look desperate. Anderlecht in desperate need of an equalizer, and Standard desperately trying to hold on.
Further controversy as Anderlecht’s goalscorer and captain, Biglia, was sent off for a second bookable offense meaning Anderlecht were down to nine men with 10 minutes to go.
As both sets of players began to tire the game became stretched. Anderlecht were then presented with what seemed like the last opportunity of the game, a free-kick on the edge of the area: Whipped in by substitute Odoi, Gillet rose highest to head home the equalizer and break Standard hearts.
A derby that had it all, 4 goals, 3 sendings off and drama up until the final blow of the whistle. A draw was probably a fair result. Standard may feel deprived, but they must take heart from Anderlecht’s current run of form as they look to end their campaign on a high. Anderlecht on the other hand sit six points clear at the top with six games to go – knowing they’re now only two games away from their fourth consecutive Pro League title.
This article was written by Jack Willows. You can follow him on twitter @willowsj.