Tipped for a season of struggle last May, RSC Anderlecht proved the doubters wrong on Sunday by securing their 33rd Belgian championship, courtesy of a 3-1 home win against KSC Lokeren OV.
The summer departure of key players including Lucas Biglia, Dieumerci Mbokani, Tom De Sutter and Milan Jovanović had raised serious concerns over Anderlecht's title credentials. Indeed, their prospects looked decidedly bleak 30 games into the regular season as they trailed leaders R. Standard de Liège by ten points. Hope was restored, however, when the league split into four for the ten-match run-in and the gap was trimmed to eight.
With wily assistant Besnik Hasi succeeding John van den Brom in March, the eventual champions clawed back the deficit by ending the season with five successive wins, including victories against their nearest rivals, to finish two points clear. "It's a great feeling although it hasn't sunk in yet," said Hasi. "The team's performance has been exceptional. Don't forget we won seven out of the ten play-off matches, conceding just six goals.
"In a short space of time, we have created a really solid side and the whole mentality has changed," added the 42-year-old former Albania midfielder, who sounded a positive note about the foundations laid by his predecessor. "All the credit must go to the players, although we must not forget the work of John van den Brom. This is John's title as well."
The manner in which Anderlecht clinched the title was particularly satisfying for stalwart Olivier Deschacht, who has now won eight league crowns in 14 years. "This is the most beautiful title of them all," enthused the 33-year-old. "Nobody can say we didn't deserve it. We have outclassed Standard at home and beat Brugge twice. It was exhausting, but we fought all the way and got what we deserved."
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