"We have played Anderlecht twice already, and are still top," beamed Víctor Vázquez after scoring twice in Club Brugge KV's 2-2 draw against RSC Anderlecht. "That says something."
Sunday's top-of-the-table clash in Belgium did not disappoint in terms of drama, with Vázquez finding the target with two free-kicks, the second salvaging a point for his side after captain Timmy Simons had a penalty saved for Michel Preud'homme's men. Points totals are halved after 30 rounds in Belgium ahead of the final play-offs. meaning little is decided in the autumn, but the psychological value of this point could be significant.
Club Brugge are just a point clear of Anderlecht at the top of the rankings, but Spanish playmaker Vázquez was impressed that his side refused to bow in their main rivals' home stadium, despite trailing to goals from Dennis Praet and Olivier Deschacht after Vázquez had put the visitors ahead. "Anderlecht might have better individuals, but we have built a closer team," he said. "The core of this team is getting stronger all the time."
Anderlecht secured their place in the UEFA Europa League round of 32 last week, as third-placed finishers in UEFA Champions League Group D, and – barring disaster next week – Club Brugge should be in that draw too. One way or another, the clubs will find it hard to avoid each other in the autumn. "The 2-2 was a fair score," Praet noted, adding: "As far as the title goes, it will be between Anderlecht and Club Brugge until the end."
What he saw of his side's spirit in Brussels has given Preud'homme reason to believe that his side would end up on top in such a dogfight. The former Belgium goalkeeper said: "We missed enough chances to have won this game, and that can be crucial in a title race, but we do create chances, match after match, and that is positive. And we showed real fighting spirit after we went 2-1 down. We kept on going for it."
Anderlecht coach Besnik Hasi, however, can only hope his side can eradicate their faults and keep top spot in their sights. "We have to be better at defending set pieces; we have conceded four against Club Brugge from stupid mistakes in such situations. We have to learn from that. Some mistakes you can make once or twice, but not a third time. We have to work on that. But the great thing about this young team is that they can only get better."
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