Al-Ittihad is the surprise in the quarter-finals of the European League, and the Belgian vice-champion continues to surprise Europe there as well. He stopped the team’s winning streak in the form of Leverkusen. “I had fun,” Coach Karel Gerats expressed that sentiment.
For a moment there seemed to be a trick in the making against Leverkusen, who had won 7 times in a row. Just before the end of the match Virts managed to erase 0-1 from superstar Boniface. With a 1-1 lead, the Mature Union created a good starting position for a comeback next week.
The match witnessed everything that makes football beautiful: “In the beginning, there was a very nice atmosphere with positive vibes from the stands,” said Geerts. “It was also great to see our legionnaires, it’s the first time I’ve seen so many distant supporters from the Union I think. I’ve heard them too. Just like Leverkusen.”
“And the game itself wasn’t boring either. It was up and down. To be fair: Leverkusen tried more and had more possession. They are playing at home and are in very good shape.”
“But for me two things were important: 1. The team had to be there, or you’d go down; 2. When we had the ball, we had to try to keep up and create danger.”
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For commentator Philip Goss, Ismail Kundous’s performance stood out: calm on the ball, good response, and even bridge. Geerts agrees: “He’s having a great season. He’s been playing at a very high level for months and has made great strides forward.”
The French defender plays in the right-back position. “This situation is often underestimated, and a lot of attacks start from there and can get an opponent in trouble.”
The visiting midfield Lenin-Thoma-Lazar was top notch again: Lenin intercepts passes, Teoma makes the football and Lazar rips through the midfield. “The art in football is finding certain bonds with each other and they don’t have the same kinds.”
“We had that on the field today. It’s a pity that Senne couldn’t continue, that was a necessary substitution. But I’m proud of the boys. And not just the midfield, but also the defenders and the forward.”
“Boniface and Jorbe (Vertissen) made counters less fun, but they were there for the team today. When they got the ball, they tried to think about the future. That was the most important thing.”
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Boniface quickly noticed that this was a different level, but he also adapts quickly.
Boniface lost 3 duels in the first 10 minutes. What was Geerts thinking then? “You can see there for a moment that there is a different level and a difference in intensity. Bonnie He has the quality that he can get things off the ground really quickly. you are wrong. He learns very quickly and sometimes hurts defenders.”
Boniface’s 0-1 was vintage for Union: Lazare out, Teuma’s pass assisted by Lapoussin. Gerarts: “I’m very proud of that. We’ve been doing it all the time since day one in training. We play football from a small space. You also don’t forget the pass from Nieuwkoop to Lazare. You have to dare to give it.”
Conclusion: “Both teams would have preferred to win, of course. But a draw away from home against a team that won 7 times in a row, including against Bayern, is of course not bad either. We should be proud of this, in my opinion, a fair result.”
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