After weeks of simmering, RSC Anderlecht's potential finally came to the surface when they recorded their first UEFA Champions League home victory in nine years at the expense of FC Zenit St Petersburg on matchday four.
Dieudonné Mbokani's 17th-minute winner sparked wild celebrations inside the intimate surroundings of Anderlecht's Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. The relief was tangible given it was the home side's first goal in the UEFA Champions League group stage since Nicolas Frutos found the net in a 2-2 draw against AEK Athens FC on 6 December 2006.
The 31-time Belgian champions have also been in fine form on the domestic front, plundering 16 goals in their four most recent First League outings. Sunday's 1-0 win against KV Kortrijk in Brussels maintained their place at the Belgian summit.
The mastermind behind their renaissance is Dutch coach John van den Brom, whose philosophy bears all the hallmarks of his native country. "Anderlecht like to play attractive and good football, which is the kind of football I love," said the former ADO Den Haag and Vitesse coach in July. Indeed, the football has been incisive, stylish and often enthralling.
Uncompromising duo Bram Nuytinck and Cheikhou Kouyaté provide defensive steel, Milan Jovanović's attacking experience is infectious, while Mbokani's explosive pace and instinctive finishing strike fear into the opposition. Sparkling talents Dennis Praet, 18 and Massimo Bruno, 19, are given licence to thrill and have displayed maturity beyond their years in Europe's premier club competition.
This well-balanced combination is making Anderlecht tick, but the substance behind the style will face its most critical examination yet when they host second-placed AC Milan on Wednesday in Group C. "The Zenit victory was a beautiful evening for the club and for Belgian football as a whole," said Van den Brom, 46. "Now, we will do everything in our power to finish second in the group, starting with our next game against Milan."
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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