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Since Christoph Daum replaced Adrie Koster at the helm, Club Brugge KV have not looked back. The new coach has masterminded a five-match winning sequence and is plotting No6 against SC Braga on Thursday.
Not even the most optimistic Club Brugge supporter could have foreseen the impact Daum would make when he arrived on 9 November. Four 1-0 First League victories have followed, while at NK Maribor on 30 November the Belgian outfit had the character to battle back from 3-0 down after 73 minutes to complete a 4-3 UEFA Europa League success. That remarkable recovery has left the Group H leaders a point from the round of 32.
As a vastly experienced coach who counts 1. FC Köln, VfB Stuttgart, Beşiktaş JK, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, FK Austria Wien, Fenerbahçe SK and Eintracht Frankfurt among his former clubs, Daum has acquired considerable knowledge in his field. And the 58-year-old's first priority when taking charge of a team known for attractive football but with a tendency to relinquish leads, was to strengthen their rearguard.
First we need to establish a solid defensive situation, and only after that do we think about attacking," said Daum, whose has nonetheless been at pains to refute the notion he is a defence-minded manager. "Offensive: yes. Open: no." His tactics, however, and the string of narrow wins have yet to earn widespread approval.
"I can understand the criticism," said the German. "People who love football have not always enjoyed what they have seen. But had we played good football we would have lost against Maribor and only collected four points in the league. What would people have said then? In the end championships are won starting with a solid defence."
The ends have certainly justified the means with Brugge's four victories propelling them to second place in the First League. The gap to pacesetters RSC Anderlecht has been cut from seven points to two, while a draw at home to Braga on Thursday would guarantee a slot in the UEFA Europa League knockout phase.
Daum also believes he is beginning to witness a gradual improvement in the performances of his side, whose most recent triumph, against K. Sint-Truidense VV on Sunday, encouraged him further. "When you look at how many chances we created, a lot of progress has been made by the whole team. Our wing play is not perfect yet, the final pass could be better, but it is getting there. There is a lot more to come. We are on the right track, we are second in the league and that has opened people's minds."
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