Sporting Charleroi hosted Waasland-Beveren in round five of the 2020/21 Belgian Pro League season. Charleroi came into the game on the back of a wretched run of form, with only one win in their last eight outings in all competitions. Waasland-Beveren on the other hand are sitting bottom of the league. However, their past two games have seen them beat Oostende and get a point on the road at Sint-Truiden. Despite the positioning of both clubs in the league table, the winners could have been anybody’s guess.
It was Waasland-Beveren who looked the team mounting a title challenge this season. Two goals from Aboubakary Koita secured a 2-0 victory, with both goals coming either side of a red card for Charleroi’s Marco Ilaimaharitra. The result will be extremely disappointing for Charleroi fans. They had their fair share of chances to score, even with 10 men. However, wasteful finishing and poor defending led to their downfall.
Sporting Charleroi manager Karim Belhocine made three changes to the team who lost to Eupen last weekend. New signings Jon Flanagan and Łukasz Teodorczyk still await their debuts, with neither included in the squad. Starting in their usual 4-2-3-1 formation, former PSG player Rémy Descamps replaced the experienced Nicolas Penneteau in goal. Modou Diagne replaced Steeven Willems at centre-back, lining up alongside Dorian Dessoleil. Joris Kayembe and Jules van Kleemput started as full-backs. In the centre of midfield, Belhocine went with his usual pairing of Marco Ilaimaharitra and Guillaume Gillet. Ryota Morioka started in attacking midfield, with Mamadou Fall to the left, and Iranian international Ali Gholizadeh to the right. Upfront, Jamaican Shamar Nicholson replaced Kaveh Rezaei as the lone striker. Former Premier League striker Saido Berahino started on the bench for a second game running.
It has been a difficult campaign so far for Nicky Hayen, who is in his first full season as a Belgium Pro League manager. He set his Waasland-Beveren side up in a 3-4-2-1. Nordin Jackers, on loan from Genk, started between the sticks. Making up the back three was Alexis Gamboa, Brendan Schoonbaert, and Dries Wuytens. Leonardo Bertone partnered the experienced Cameroonian Georges Mandjeck in centre midfield. Andreas Wiegel started on the right, with Serge Leuko out left. In the two attacking midfield roles, Hayen opted for Aboubakary Koita to line up alongside Daan Heymans. After six goals in his first seven games of the campaign, Heymans has not scored in his last five outings. Michael Frey, on loan from Fenerbahce, began the game on his own up top.
The visitors set up in a compact 3-4-2-1 formation. Despite a four-man midfield, wide men Serge Leuko and Andreas Wiegel almost acted like wing-backs. When play broke down, or Charleroi were in possession, the two of them tucked into a five-man backline.
As we can see in the image above, Charleroi have possession and Waasland-Beveren have transitioned to a 5-4-1. Both Daan Heymans and Aboubakary Koita sat deep to make a bank of four, leaving Michael Frey as the lone outlet. This worked for Waasland-Beveren as Charleroi found it difficult to break them down. Another observation of the Waasland-Beveren shape was how compact they were.
They played very narrow when in possession, and defended similarly when out of possession. The image on the left below shows the average positioning of the visitors in the first 15 minutes of the game. The right image shows Charleroi. It is clear that Charleroi were out to make much better use of the width available on the pitch.
Wherever the ball tended to be, Charleroi always had a man free on the far touchline. However, Waasland-Beveren dealt with the switched ball superbly. In this image, we can see how compact they were. Despite Jules van Kleemput finding himself in so much space awaiting the switch, this did not concern the team in yellow.
When the long switch was played, they brilliantly transitioned together as a unit. This quick shift minimised the available space for the Charleroi attackers to exploit.
Charleroi looking to press
Charleroi are a team who like to press their opposition high up the pitch and this game was no different. Straight from the off, they looked to pressure the Waasland-Beveren backline when they were in possession.
The above image is a classic example of this press. On this occasion, they forced Andreas Wiegel to play the ball back to Schoonbaert. Under immediate pressure, the defender sent the ball back once more backwards, this time to his goalkeeper who was forced long.
However, Waasland-Beveren grew in confidence, and impressively looked to play out. With Frey the outlet if they needed to go long, they looked to keep the ball and play it forward to feet. On numerous occasions, they were able to beat the press this way.
Michael Frey had a difficult time getting on the ball during the game. However, what he did offer Waasland-Beveren was an outlet. Rather than posting himself next to the Charleroi centre-backs, he made himself a willing runner in the channels. The image below is a typical position that Frey looked to take up.
In the 35th minute of the game, the deadlock was broken. Waasland-Beveren looked to play out the back, put Charleroi pressure saw the ball sent long. Rather than being sent long to clear lines, the ball was knocked forward to Frey who bombed into the channel ahead of the retreating Charleroi defenders.
After smartly holding up the play, he found Aboubakary Koita who took a touch, got his head up, and sent his strike into the bottom corner. Rémy Descamps, who played no Ligue 1 games in his time at PSG, will have been disappointed not to do better, but it was a well-deserved goal by the ‘Leeuwen’.
Ilaimaharitra sees red
Going into the half time interval at 1-0 down was disappointing for Charleroi. However, matters were made worse right before the whistle was blown. Koita, making a nuisance of himself with some fine dribbling, pulled away from two Charleroi players, one of whom was Ilaimaharitra. With Guillaume Gillet coming across to cover, Koita was at a dead end. Nevertheless, that did not hold Ilaimaharitra back. The midfielder came through the back of Koita with an extremely reckless challenge; a straight red card being the result.
Down to 10 men, Charleroi shuffled the pack. Having gone to a 4-4-1, Van Cleemput was sacrificed for Rezaei. It was a positive substitution from Karim Belhocine, who by bringing on a striker showed clear intent that Charleroi could get back into the game. Despite being a man down, for spells they looked like the team with the numerical advantage.
Attacking midfielder Mamadou Fall dropped into right-back. With Joris Kayembe at left-back and Fall on the right, Charleroi had two very attack-minded players at full-back. In the image below, we can see the high positions both of them were willing to take up.
Charleroi did have chances in the second half, with two of their best chances going to Shamar Nicholson. However, the Jamaican was unable to convert both. Waasland-Beveren also had other opportunities to add to the scoreline, however none as clear cut as Nicholsons.
Koita at the double
Aboubakary Koita was the star of the show in the game. He proved to be a constant threat to Charleroi, and deserved the two goals that he scored. Whilst the first may have been a little fortuitous to skip past keeper Descamps, there was nothing lucky about the second. Towards the last 10 minutes of the game, Waasland-Beveren comfortably managed the game. They looked dangerous every time they went forward as Charleroi legs tired. A well-worked passage of play resulted in Daan Heymans slipping through Koita, who sublimely finished to put the game to bed. Whilst Koita ran away with all the plaudits, which were deserved, there were a number of times he could have done a better job of being a provider. The youngster was constantly able to find space in the hole. If the likes of Bertrone and Mandjeck could break the line and find Koita’s feet, he would turn and run at the Charleroi defenders. With his pace and dribbling ability, he caused problems for the home team all game.
However, there were many times when he could have fed teammates through on goal, instead misplacing or overhitting his pass. This happened on four occasions, all of which were very dangerous positions. In the image below, we can see a perfect example of this. With Daan Heymans awaiting a simple ball to his feet, Koita needlessly overhits it and the attack breaks down.
A couple of weeks ago, Charleroi and manager Karim Belhocine will have fancied nine points from their next three games; Gent, Eupen, and Waasland-Beveren. However, they have managed to come away with zero points. Their performances have been far from good enough. A lack of quality in front of goal and lapses in concentration in defence has been a consistent theme in all three games. If they are to keep their title challenge alive, they must address these problems quickly.
For Waasland-Beveren, this was a huge three points, and well earnt. They were tactically well set up, and disciplined in their performance from start to finish. After an awful start to the campaign, there will be real optimism in the club that their season may very well be turning on its head, having gone unbeaten in the past three games. Aboubakary Koita performance was one of note, whilst defenders Gamboa, Wuytens, and Schoonbaert across the back three performed excellently.
Charleroi are next in action on Monday when they host Kortrijk. Waasland-Beveren entertain Mouscron at the Freethiel Stadion on Saturday.