Oostende on the Belgian coast has always held an interest for me, due mainly to its famous seafront building called the Kursaal. So inspired by a stay in Oostende the Tollhurst family returned to Southend and built their own Kursaal at Marine Park which remains operational to this day. The football ground built in its substantial acreage would be home to my beloved Southend United between 1919 and 1934.
So a trip to the Albertpark Stadion was always on my wish list and what finer occasion than when the “Kustboys” welcomed runway leaders Standard Liège to West Flanders.
Koninklijke Voetbal Oostende were formed in 1904 and are registered on the Belgian matricule system as number 31. They were originally called V.G. Oostende but were soon superseded in status by upstarts A.S. Oostende, formed seven years later. The two clubs battled on until 1981 when a mutually beneficial merger saw the formation of the current K.V. Oostende club. Confusingly since the merger a new V.G. Oostende club have been formed and currently play in the fifth tier West Flanders Provincial League. They currently groundshare with K.V. at the Albertpark Stadion after having their historic Armenonville Stadion declared unsafe. The Albertpark Stadion itself was opened in 1934 and is reminiscent of Oxford United’s old Manor Ground with a hotchpotch of stands on either side. One stand appears to be of a temporary nature, no doubt installed to increase capacity to the minimum requirement of 8,000 (with 5,000 seats) for top flight football.
K.V. won the Belgian Second Division by a comfortable ten points last season which has resulted in their first spell in the top flight since the 2004/05 campaign. Sadly for the Coast Boys the new season has got off to a bad start and after six rounds of matches they prop up the Pro League table with just two points, their inferior goal difference placing them beneath fellow slow starters Mons. Conversely today’s opponents have got off to a flyer with maximum points from six games and without a single goal conceded. Indeed, they looked a good outfit when I saw them earlier in the season at KV Mechelen.
Oostende have bolstered their ranks in recent weeks with several loan signings including Frenchman Franck Berrier who had a great campaign at Zulte-Waregem last season. Anderlecht have also sent the Brazilian Fernando Canesin and Jordan Lukaku, younger brother of national team striker Romelu, on loan to Oostende. Even with their augmented roster this was going to be a tough challenge for the Kustboys. Football being the great purveyor of unpredictability that it is saw the Albertpark Stadion burst into delirium after 13 minutes when Laurent Depoitre pierced the Liège defence for the first time this season.
However, Standard soon exerted their authority on proceedings by scoring three times in a 15 minute spell before half time. Firstly Imoh Ezekiel levelled the score before a brace from the prodigiously talented 19 year old Michy Batshuayi, saw the visitors lead 3-1 at the break.
Just be for the hour mark the impressive Batshuayi completed his hat-trick in fine style. Two minutes later though Denis Dessaer headed a corner in at the far post having found himself totally unmarked. The volume was cranked up at the Albertpark Stadion but in truth the home side didn’t really look like they believed they could score a third time. They didn’t, and Standard saw out the 90 minutes with consummate ease.
The Albertpark Stadion is a good stadium to visit, compact and homely and awash with the home side’s vibrant colours of red, yellow and green.
Jupiler Pro League – 15/09/2013
KV Oostende (1) 2 (Depoitre 13, Dessaer 60)
Standard Liège (3) 4 (Ezekiel 24, Batshuayi 31,39,58)
Attendance: 7,000 (at Albertpark Stadion)
31. Céderic Berthelin; 2. Xavier Luissint (c); 13. Frédéric Brillant; 6. Baptiste Schmisser; 24. Jimmy Hempte; 22. Jonathan Wilmet; 7. Sebastien Siani; 19. Denis Dessaer; 25. Fernando Canesin; 27. Franck Berrier; 9. Laurent Depoitre.
Subs: 1. Nicaise Kudimbana; 3. Niels De Schutter; 26. Jordan Lukaku (for 25, 74 mins); 16. Yohan Brouckaert (for 19, 65 mins); 11. Thomas Foket; 21. Gertjan Martens (for 6, 42 mins); 14. Tom Van Imschoot.
1. Eiji Kawashima; 4. Daniel Opare; 37. Jelle Van Damme (c); 6. Laurent Ciman; 11. Frederic Bulot; 21. William Vainqueur; 25. Antonio Kanu Perriera; 44. Ibrahima Cisse; 63; Geoffrey Mujangi-Bia; 39. Imoh Ezekiel; 23. Michy Batshuayi.
Subs: 28. Guillaume Hubert; 10. Igor De Camargo (for 23, 81 mins); 15. Julien De Sart; 33. Medhi Carcela; 36. Dino Arslanagić; 40. Ebunge Paul Mpoku (for 11, 70 mins); 75. Alpaslan Ozturk (for 21, 66 mins)
Yellow Cards: Depoitre (Oostende); Kanu, Ezekiel, Ozturk (Standard)