Antwerp can already smell the play-off round of the Conference League thanks to a dreamed victory on the field of Lillestrøm. The Norwegians gave more resistance than the score suggests, but 2 goals from Radja Nainggolan made the difference.
Lillestrøm – Antwerp in a nutshell:
- Key moment: After the late equalizer shortly before half-time, Lillestrøm comes out of the dressing room with confidence. Ibrahimaj even quickly forces Butez to make a great save, but immediately afterwards the home team shoots into its own foot. Loss of the ball by Pettersson leads to Nainggolan’s 1-2.
- Man of the match: Radja Nainggolan certainly didn’t play his best game and was even at the basis of the 1-1 with a casual loss of the ball, but more than corrected that mistake with two important goals. His first was an easy inside tap, his second was a gem.
- Remarkable: The Antwerp defence, with Toby Alderweireld, was a house with 4 clean sheets in as many official matches this season. Tonight, without Toby Alderweireld, that series came to an end without any goals against.
Antwerp forgets to exploit mastery
Scoring after barely 4 minutes and 41 seconds, the match couldn’t have started much better for Antwerp. Miyoshi painted a corner kick on Almeida’s head, which left goalkeeper Christiansen without a chance with a good header.
The tone was immediately set: calm mastery for Antwerp and a frantic Lillestrøm running after the ball. The home team had little to nothing to say on their own field, the question of how Antwerp would do defensively without Alderweireld remained unanswered for a long time.
But despite the clear predominance, Antwerp could no longer cause danger after the early goal, there was no question of any depth. The visitors thus called for disaster and even lent Lillestrøm a hand. After Nainggolan lost the ball, a pass from Kairinen came with some luck to Knudsen, who brought the home team alongside just before half-time.
Nainggolan pushes Lillestrøm to the exit
Shortly after the break, Lillestrøm continued on his momentum. Butez had to go flat when Ibrahimaj struck from a sharp corner after a nice infiltration. The momentum seemed for the home side until Pettersson clumsily handed the ball in to Miyoshi. Balikwisha cleverly passed the low cross from the Japanese and Nainggolan was able to score easily from close range.
The start of the second half was a copy of the first with a quick Antwerp goal after just over 4 minutes. Unfortunately, the sequel also followed a similar course. “We are looking at the big nothing. So little is happening, a bit in the image of the city,” Sporza commentator Tom Boudeweel summed up.
Still, fifteen minutes before the end, it was quite a shock for Antwerp. After Miyoshi’s poor defense, Fridjonsson got an excellent chance to make it 2-2 on a pass from Helland, but he slipped the ball just wide.
Antwerp escaped, but shortly before the end Nainggolan decided the match with his second of the evening. From the crescent he curled the ball nicely past Christiansen in goal. 1-3, Antwerp can return to the Bosuil with an excellent starting position.
Nainggolan: “Now finish in a controlled manner at home and save strength”
- Radja Nainggolan: “We controlled the match from the first to the last minute today. The 1-1 came after a small technical error by me. But if you call yourself a big team, you can still avoid that goal. There were 4 more “About 5 players who could have prevented that goal from falling. Those are small mistakes from which we have to learn. But I corrected it with two goals, that is the most important for me. 1-3 is a good result and a good starting position. We must now finish it at home in a controlled manner and save as much energy as possible, because busy weeks are coming up. We played very mature, Lillestrøm could only hurt us if we lost the ball stupidly. That early goal from Almeida was good, I thought we would could look for the 0 – 2. But Lillestrøm was quite low, we had to wait for them to put some pressure as the home side, so that we found the space to set up counterattacks. We played it out in the second half.”
- Mark van Bommel (coach Antwerp): “This is a good result. Almeida’s early goal helped us, but I thought we were making unnecessary mistakes. That gave the opponent the feeling that there was still something to be gained. They let us make the game and waited for the counter. “If we gave a wrong pass, there were dangerous moments. We also conceded that goal just before half time. That has to be removed. In the second half we scored two beautiful goals and then you take a deserved victory here. In general, I am very satisfied with the team, except for those small things. But that is a process, it cannot be gone in one go. We also have a number of substitutions every game, but that is always handled well. If someone gives it a pain, we can give it rest. We still have to wait and see if Alderweireld will be there again on Sunday.”