R. Standard de Liège are handily placed to claim the Belgian championship after Les Rouches earned a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their title play-off against RSC Anderlecht at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in Brussels.
The home side edged in front after 51 minutes thanks to a header from substitute Jonathan Legear but last season's champions replied swiftly with Dieudonné Mbokani heading in the equaliser nine minutes later. Standard were forced to hold on with ten men, however, when Tomislav Mikulić was sent off for a second booking with three minutes remaining.
Standard, who finished seven points clear of second-placed Anderlecht last term, started the match in the ascendancy with Wilfried Dalmat firing against the post within two minutes. A quarter of an hour later, they were denied in similar circumstances as a 20-metre effort from Igor De Camargo was also kept out by the upright. Anderlecht, despite laying claim to the greater share of possession, rarely caused problems for the Standard defence.
The pattern changed in the second half with Ariël Jacobs's charges far sharper and they were rewarded when Tom De Sutter and Olivier Deschacht combined, the latter crossing for Legear, a 37th-minute substitute from the injured Guillaume Gillet, to leap above Dalmat at the far post to head past Sinan Bolat. Standard responded in the manner of champions, though, with Mehdi González crossing from the left flank and Mbokani heading into the far corner.
The hosts could not capitalise on Mikulić's sending off late on and Laszlo Bölöni's side will therefore start with an away-goals advantage when the sides reconvene to decide the first Eerste Klasse play-off in 23 years at the Maurice Dufrasne Stadium in Liege on Sunday.
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