AA Gent book place in Champions League
On the last day of the season in Belgium, AA Gent seized second place and a ticket into the Champions League qualifiers in dramatic fashion, beating Club Brugge 6-2.
The game was effectively over at half-time with Gent leading 3-0, goals scored by Randall Azofeifa, Mbaye Leye and a superb effort from Yassine El Ghanassy.
It could have been worse for Club Brugge, as the referee had deemed yellow cards sufficient punishment for a dangerous studs-first lunge by Droge Kouhema on Bernd Thijs and a violent upward kick into Elimane Koulibaly's chest by goalkeeper Stijn Stijnen.
Gent were not to be distracted went 4-0 up straight after the break when Christophe Lepoint finished off the first Gent move of the second half with a looping header. Brugge came back to 4-1 but an unstoppable Gent scored again in the 82nd minute to make it 5-1. Kouhema for Brugge and Thijs for Gent then added further efforts to complete the scored. It is the first time in 55 years that AA Gent have finished second in Belgium and their first chance to play in the Champions League.
In qualification last year, Gent were unceremoniously dumped out of qualification by Roma, losing 10-2 on aggregate.
It comes as positive news for Belgian football as a fourth club with a substantial budget would mean more competition for Anderlecht, Club Brugge and Standard
Gent's impressive season is not over yet. They now have the Belgian Cup final to look forward to, in which the play Cercle Brugge. For Club Brugge, missing out on Champions League football is a big blow and frustrations were running high after the game, when Stijnen was seen running off the pitch to confront Gent chairman Ivan de Witte at the entrance to the tunnel, shouting at him while stewards tried to calm him down.
De Witte chose not to speak about the incident, while Stijnen claimed the Gent boss had pushed his team-mate Karel Geeraerts. It is the end of a controversial season for Stijnen, who decided earlier not to play for the national team again.
AA Gent 6-2 Club Brugge
Anderlecht 2-1 St Truiden
Zulte-Waregem 1-2 KV Kortrijk