UEFA Europa League Matchday 3: Union Saint-Gilloise 2-1 LASK

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LASK’s UEFA Europa League hopes were dealt a blow as Christian Burgess’ 90+4 minute header secured all three points for Union Saint-Gilloise despite a battling display in the Belgian capital. Moses Usor’s sublime first-half finish had put LASK in the ascendency, but a late Cameron Puertas penalty and Burgess’ injury-time winner meant a difficult pill to swallow for the Black and Whites to take back to Linz.

Coming off the back of their stunning 1-0 victory away at champions Red Bull Salzburg at the weekend, Sageder only made one change to his winning starting eleven with Felix Luckeneder returning to central defence and Andres Andrade moving to the bench. Their opponents Union Saint-Gilloise are enjoying one of the best seasons in club history and lead the Belgian Jupiler Pro League after 11 match days without defeat; their only defeat of the season coming away at Anfield in their last UEFA Europa League encounter.

After two defeats on the bounce in the UEFA Europa League Thomas Sageder had described the match as a “mini-final” as LASK looked for their first points in Group E. A spirited display against Premier League giants Liverpool and a tight 1-0 defeat away at Toulouse meant the Linzers had it all to do in the battle for qualification. However, the preparations began sub optimally with a four-hour flight delay en route to Belgium meaning training had to be held in Pasching rather than in Brussels, as is customary in UEFA competitions. A tough test awaited against their in-form opponents.

The hosts had the first sight of goal with a delicious backheel from Puertas playing into the path of Kevin Rodriguez, but Tobias Lawal rushed out of the goal and cleared the danger. LASK replied with a decent period of control and came inches from an opener in the 13th minute as Ljubicic passed to Zulj in the penalty area. The LASK captain manoeuvred and shot from ten metres out with Anthony Moris, the Union SG keeper, already beaten but Kevin Mac Allister saved the day with a goal line clearance.

Midway through the first half, LASK deservedly took the lead via Usor. After a strong tackle in the midfield from Sascha Horvath, Filip Stojković took the ball with authority and laid a dangerous cross to a completely free Usor in the middle who angled his strike into the back of the net to place the Austrians on top.

Four minutes later, the Belgians thought they had equalised with Mohamed Amoura being quickly played through by Jean Thierry Lazare and finishing coolly against Lawal in their one-on-one battle. However, Turkish referee Atilla Karaoglan was referred to VAR and adjudged a foul in the build-up between Lazare and Horvath, therefore giving LASK a free-kick and ruling out the equaliser.

With the half-time whistle beckoning, LASK had a final major chance in the first half as George Bello won the ball in a threatening position to send it deep into the path of Marin Ljubicic but the Croatian striker couldn’t beat Union SG’s Luxembourgish keeper Moris who parried the ball away from trouble to keep the score at 1-0 heading into the break. Only a minute into the second half Ljubicic once again came close to adding his name onto the scoresheet as Stojković’s whipped cross found him in the middle to glance his header a hair’s breadth wide of the far post.

Union SG started to show their attacking prowess with Rodriguez attempting an audacious bicycle kick and seeing his attempt go wide. This was quickly followed by a quick counter-attack down the right sideline that came to Puertas in the middle of the box but fortunately the Swiss striker fluffed his lines and missed the opportunity. Another chance came and went for the Belgian league leaders with a Koki Machida header from close range going wide.

With the match reaching its final crescendo, the outlook of the contest changed in the 82nd minute as Felix Luckeneder fouled Loïc Lapoussin inside the area and a penalty was awarded to the hosts. Puertas stepped up, and despite Lawal choosing the correct way, slotted home a well-placed spot-kick into the bottom left corner.

Unfortunately for LASK, with the final action of the game, a teasing cross from Puertas was headed in from close range by English defender Burgess to clinch all three points for the Belgians at the death and leave LASK at the bottom of Group E after three match days. A return visit from Union Saint-Gilloise awaits in Linz on November 9th in what is simply a must-win for LASK’s hopes of progressing in Europe beyond Christmas.

The line-ups

Union Saint-Gilloise: Moris; Mac Allister, Burgess, Machida; Castro-Montes (Terho, 64’), Amani (Sadiki, 75’), Vanhoutte, Lapoussin; Amoura, Rodriguez (Eckert, 64’), Puertas

Subs: Imbrechts, Wenssens; Rasmussen, Teklab, Sykes, Huygevelde, Leysen

Yellow cards: Vanhoutte (80’), Burgess (88’)

Goals: Puertas (84’, pen), Burgess (90+4’)

LASK: Lawal; Bello (Goiginger, 46’), Luckeneder, Ziereis, Stojković (Flecker, 72’); Horvath, Talovierov, Ljubic; Usor (Andrade, 76’), Žulj, Ljubicic (Mustapha, 67’)

Subs: Siebenhandl, Jungwirth; Kone, Balic, Havel, Ba

Yellow cards: Bello (26’), Žulj (32’), Horvath (90+1’), Talovierov (90+3’)

Goals: Usor (24’)

By Simon Clark from The Other Bundesliga