Sint-Truiden hosted Sporting Charleroi in round sixteen of the 2020/21 Belgian Pro League season. Both teams came into the game in dreadful form. Sint-Truiden had recorded only two wins this season and lie bottom of the table. To make matters worse, they also came into the game managerless, having sacked Kevin Muscat last week. Sporting Charleroi were winless in their past five games, having recorded three defeats and two draws. The fixture presented an excellent opportunity for both teams to get back to winning ways. From their past six meetings, both teams have won three and lost three.
It was Sporting Charleroi who came out victorious, snatching all three points with a 2-1 win. The visitors took the lead through an excellent strike by Mamadou Fall 25 minutes into the game. Sint-Truiden clawed their way back into the game just before halftime, with Haiti international Duckens Nazon converting a cross from Liberato Cacace. Despite having the majority of possession, the home team lost the game after Shamar Nicholson made it 2-1. Their efforts to get an equaliser took a huge blow after 69 minutes when Sammy Asamoah received a second yellow card to force Sint-Truiden into playing a man down for the final stages of the game.
Interim coach Stef van Winckel set his team up in a 3-4-1-2 formation. Japanese international Daniel Schmidt started in goal for ‘De Kanaries’. Jonathan Batu lined up alongside Jorge Teixeira and Maximiliano Caufriez to make up the back three. Samuel Asamoah partnered club captain Steve De Ridder in centre midfield with Facundo Colidio, on loan from Serie A side Inter Milan, playing in the hole. Liberato Cacace, signed from Wellington Phoenix in the summer, started on the left with Ibrahima Sory Sankhon on the right. Up front, van Winckel chose to start Yuma Suzuki alongside Duckens Nazon. The pair have nine goals between them this season, with Suzuki notching five and Nazon bagging four.
Despite usually opting for a 4-2-3-1, Sporting Charleroi manager Karim Belhocine lined his team up in a 4-4-2 formation. Frenchman Rémy Descamps, formerly of PSG, again kept his place between the sticks, keeping out compatriot Nicolas Penneteau. The experienced Steeven Willems and Dorian Dessolei started at centre-back. Jules Van Kleemput returned to the side at right-back, with Joris Kayembe starting on the left to complete the back four. Iranian international Ali Gholizadeh started on the right of midfield, with Mamadou Fall on the left wing. Ryota Morioka and Guillaume Gillet partnered one another in centre midfield, with Marco Ilaimaharitra still serving a suspension from his red card against Waasland-Beveren. Saido Berahino was given the opportunity to play in a higher role, lining up alongside Shamar Nicholson up front.
It was Sint-Truiden who started the stronger out the two teams. Whilst they did not create any clear-cut goal scoring chances, they did have the lion’s share of possession. Central midfielders Ridder and Asamoah looked to get themselves on the ball as much as possible. The image below shows a typical example of Asamoah dropping deep to get the ball off one of the back three, with De Ridder taking up a position in between the Charleroi forward line and midfield. Asamoah would then look to break the Charleroi line by finding De Ridder, who would subsequently turn and play out.
Wingers Cacace and Sankhons pushed high up the pitch, which forced Charleroi to defend deeper. We usually tend to see Charleroi look to press high up the pitch. However, at the start of this game, we saw little of that. With two strikers, an attacking midfielder, and wingers looking to push forward, Charleroi sat deep with two banks of four to deal with the threat. We can see a clear example of this in the image below, with every player in black and white well inside their own half.
Defensively, Sint-Truiden looked to also get players behind the ball and stay compact. Their defensive efforts started from the front. Suzuki dropped in alongside Colidio in attacking midfield, as seen in the image. That left Nazon to press by angling his runs to force the Charleroi defenders to send the ball up the channel, rather than playing out across the other side of the pitch.
When Charleroi were able to push up the pitch, De Ridder and Asamoah dropped deep to screen the back three. This made it difficult for Charleroi players in possession to find the feet of Berahino and Nicholson.
Fall breaks the deadlock
For the first 24 minutes of the game, Charleroi were unable to create anything. They spent most of their time chasing around yellow shirts as the home team moved the ball around, whilst they were unable to break down the Sint-Truiden defence with any effect.
Nevertheless, against the run of play, it was in fact Charleroi who took the lead, with a goal from Fall. Seeing very little of the ball, Berahino gradually dropped deeper and deeper. It was no particular surprise to see this – Berahino’s natural position is of course as a deep-lying forward. However, what was very notable was how deep he was actually dropping. In doing so, Fall pushed higher. As a result, Fall, circled on the left in the image below, was finding himself in the position of co-striker alongside Nicholson. We can see Berahino circled on the right, having dropped deep to look for a pass from Kayembe.
In the build-up to the game’s opening goal, Fall again pushed high up the pitch into a forward role, with Berahino dropping deep. Having pushed forward towards the ball, a small scramble occurred on the edge of the box. Sint-Truiden were unable to clear, and Fall pounced on the ball. Shimmying to his right, he got his head up and sent a pin perfect strike into the top corner.
Sint-Truiden did find their way back into the game, grabbing a goal right before half-time. Piling on the pressure after Charleroi struggled to clear a corner, the ball dropped to Cacace. The New Zealander squared it for Nazon to tap home to make it 1-1.
Second goal, similar story
The opening stages of the second half were similar to that of the first. Sint-Truiden looked to move the ball, and did just that, with little end product. As we can see in the image below, Charleroi were happy to not only sit everyone behind the ball, but also happy to allow the Sint-Truiden backline to have it.
There was no high pressing- just patience and discipline in their defensive shape. The difference in this half was that they increasingly looked to counter when they did overturn possession. As soon as the ball was won, Charleroi transitioned quickly to get up one end of the field to the other. This resulted in them taking the lead, adding a second goal in the 52nd minute. After a Sint-Truiden attack broke down, Charleroi bombed forward, with Gillet leading the charge in possession. He found Kayembe who, after a smart give-and-go with Berahino, squared it for Nicholson to score on the second attempt at goal. It was once again a goal against the run of play.
Kayembe was, without doubt, one of Charleroi’s main threats throughout the game. He is an extremely offensive-minded left-back who looks to get forward at every opportunity that he can. This match was no different. Both his pace and dribbling ability caused problems for the Sint-Truiden defence. In the image below, we can see a classic example of what Kayembe does best. Having advanced with the ball at his feet from the halfway line, he draws a Sint-Truiden player out towards him. Running at the defence, he causes the backtracking Sint-Truiden players to ball watch. Kayembe plays a sumptuous pass, cutting through the opposition backline for Fall to latch onto and have a go at goal.
Sint-Truiden struggled to deal with him. In another example, as seen below, Kayembe again drives forward with the ball. Passing one opposition player, he draws two more towards him and again causes the Sint-Truiden backline to ball watch. Seeing the run of Fall, he plays a brilliant pass to open up the defence and send Fall through on goal.
Asamoah red card
In the 69th minute of the game, Asamoah was sent off for a heavy tackle on Charleroi striker Ken Nkuba. Nkuba had only been on the pitch two minutes, having entered the game as a substitute for Berahino. Having latched onto a loose ball, he was caught late by Asamoah who received a second yellow card.
Sint-Truiden were now playing a 3-4-2 formation. Striker Oleksandr Filippov was introduced to the game shortly after the red card, showing firm intent that the home team were determined to get an equaliser. For Charleroi, the man advantage, of course, presented a bigger opportunity to put the game to bed. As we can see in the image below, the game became stretched. Charleroi were finding more time on the ball in the middle of the park, and piling players forward in the hope for a third. With Nkuba, Nicholson, and Fall, they had plenty of pace and power to get at the Sint-Truiden back three.
Charleroi now looked completely different from their first-half performance. They were confident on the ball and much more attack-minded. They very nearly got their third. In the image below, we can see a 5 v 5 scenario that occurred after Sint-Truiden lost the ball. With plenty of options and runners around him, Nkuba cut inside to have a strike on goal. Looking destined for the top corner, his shot took the slightest of deflections, only to just go wide for a corner.
Charleroi continued to create goal-scoring opportunities but were unable to bag a third. More importantly for them, however, they took control of the game and saw it out to the end to take all three points.
Sint-Truiden will be bitterly disappointed not to get something from the game. Despite dominating much of possession, they lacked quality in the final third. It is now six games since their last win and sitting at bottom of the league, there is little reason for optimism. There were some positive performances in the game, most notably the performance by Cacace, who was defensively sound at left-back and got himself an assist. Their next game is on Tuesday, at home to Beerschot.
For Sporting Charleroi, this is a huge three points. Their form of late has been very poor by their standards, so to get back to winning ways will be a huge boost of confidence. Kayembe shone for the away team, who were well organised in their defensive shape throughout. They will be looking to make it two wins out of two when they travel to Cercle Brugge in round 17 on Tuesday.