KAA Gent have beaten Norway's Valerenga over two legs to go through to the third qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League. The Buffalos put out a patched-up team for the second leg, and struggled in the opening phase, going 1-0 down through an own goal from Okumu. They then began to make chances, but were denied by Valerenga's keeper Haug. At the end of a second half short on quality, Näsberg's header made it 2-0, but thanks to the Buffalos' 4-0 triumph in the first leg, their place in the next round was never in danger.
On the opening matchday of the Jupiler Pro League, the Buffalos got off to a perfect start away at Sint-Truiden, when Hanche-Olsen netted from close by after just two minutes. The lead did not last for long though, with Mboyo equalising ten minutes later. Gent enjoyed the majority of the possession in the second half: both Hjulsager and Tissoudali forced saves from Schmidt. But then came the sucker-punch, when Brüls scored for the Canaries with a cracking strike from distance. So from Sint-Truiden's two strikes on target they had chalked up two goals. In injury time, the ball struck Caufriez's hand in the box and then hit the post, but strangely enough VAR did not give a penalty. So the game ended 2-1, with the Buffalos very unlucky not to have picked up at least a point.
In the second qualifying round of the UEFA Conference League, the Buffalos enjoyed a thumping win over Norway's Valerenga Fotball. Bruno headed Gent into an early lead, and Tissoudali capitalised on the home side's dominance to make it 2-0 before the break. The second half was more of the same, with the visitors barely posing a threat. Odjidja's screamer made it 3-0 in the 56th minute, and substitute Malede netted a fourth just before full time. So the Buffalos go into the return leg with one foot already in the next round.
On the final matchday of the Europe Play-Offs, the Buffalos beat top-spot rivals YR KV Mechelen to claim Belgium's last European spot. The first half was goalless, with Bezus coming the closest to scoring when he headed against the bar. It was Bezus who broke the deadlock after the break with a cracking header. Tissoudali, on as a sub, doubled Gent's lead, before Druijf made it 2-1 from the spot to set up a nail-biting finish. Mechelen were on top in the closing stages, but they could not find the net again. So the Buffalos celebrated their fourth win on the spin, and more importantly first place in the Europe Play-Offs, meaning they qualify for the UEFA Europa Conference League.
On the penultimate matchday of the Europe Play-Offs, the Buffalos drew level at the top of the group with Mechelen. Malede put Gent in front against R Standard de Liège after just seven minutes with a lovely strike into the top left corner. After half time, the visitors fought hard for an equaliser, but the last word went to Yaremchuk, who made it 2-0 in injury time. Gent are now joint group leaders with Mechelen, who they face on the final matchday. Whichever team wins will claim the last European spot for next season.
The Buffalos enjoyed a great Matchday 4 of the Europe Play-Offs with a resounding 4-0 win away at Oostende. Bezus opened the scoring with a delightful chip, and the home side already looked up against it by half time after Hubert's red card and a beautiful strike from Castro-Montes into the top right corner made it 2-0. Gent doubled their lead after the break through an own goal from Vandendriessche and a second from Bezus. With the three points gained, the Buffalos leapfrog over Oostende to second in the group.
On Matchday 3 of the Europe Play-Offs, against leaders KV Oostende, the Buffalos got themselves back into contention for a European place. They took the lead in the 14th minute through Yaremchuk. Gent dominated the game and created lots of chances, but could not score again until after half-time, when Godeau headed home. It looked like they were heading for three points, but Hjulsager quickly pulled one back and then Oostende pushed hard for an equaliser. Though the game remained in the balance right up to the final whistle, the Buffalos managed to hold on for a vital 2-1 win.
Playing away at Standard, Gent made an excellent start and took the lead after just 8 minutes when Bezus finished off a sublime pass from Castro-Montes. Though the Buffalos controlled the game, they could not find a second goal, and Standard made them pay the ultimate price: first Amallah equalised just after the hour mark, and then Balikwisha put the home side in front in the 77th minute. Gent still had chances to get a draw but were denied by Bodart, who saved Odjidja's penalty and tipped Malede's effort over the bar
On Matchday 1 of the Europe Play-Offs, there were few chances in the first half until Storm scored for Mechelen following a lucky deflection. A few minutes later, the visitors doubled their lead when Druijf rounded off a quick counterattack. After the break, the Buffalos came out fighting and had brought it back to 2-2 by the 49th minute, thanks to goals from Yaremchuk and Odjidja. Gent came close to finding a winner on a few occasions but it was not to be, so the game ended all square KAA GENT TEAM YR KV MECHELEN 18 SHOTS (incl. blocked shots) 14 6 SHOTS ON TARGET 6 54,3% DUELS WON 45,7% 82,1% PASS ACCURACY 81,9% 51,7% BALL POSSESSION 48,3%
Gent had to win away at SV Zulte Waregem to get into the Play-Offs, and they grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. Castro-Montes opened the scoring and Yaremchuk doubled their lead on the half hour. Just after half time, Castro-Montes smashed in his second of the night, before Ngadeu scored with a great header to make it four and Odjidja made it 5-0 from the spot. Substitute De Bruyn also got onto the scoresheet, and Yaremchuk finished off the rout. Late strikes from Bruno and Pletinckx gave the home side a semblance of dignity, but the outcome was never in doubt: the Buffalos had three points and a place in the European Play-Offs in the bag. SV ZULTE WAREGEM TEAM KAA GENT 6 SHOTS 14 4 SHOTS ON TARGET 7 67,1% SHOT ACCURACY 50,0% 0,51 EXPECTED GOALS 3,09 1 BIG CHANCES 5 46,2% POSSESSION 53,8% 430 PASSES 513 84,2% PASS ACCURACY 84,4%
The Buffalos remain in with a shout of reaching Play-Off 2 after a comfortable 4-0 victory over R Charleroi SC. They got off to a dream start with two goals in the first eight minutes from Bezus, the second of which came from the spot, and they dominated the rest of the half. Though Charleroi came out fighting after the break, once Tissoudali had curled a brilliant strike into the top corner, the result was beyond doubt. Gent's fourth and final goal came from debutant De Bruyn, on a substitute after a long period out injured. KAA GENT TEAM SPORTING CHARLEROI 8 SHOTS ON TARGET 2 47,1% SHOT ACCURACY 22,2% 2,75 EXPECTED GOALS 1,04 3 BIG CHANCES 1 56,3% BALL POSSESSION 43,7% 522 PASSES 402 82,6% PASS ACCURACY 76,6%
It looked like Standard and Gent would be going into half time at 0-0 after Lestienne and Kums had both hit the woodwork and Yaremchuk had missed a penalty. But in the 43rd minute the Buffalos were awarded another spot kick, which Castro-Montes slotted home on the rebound. After Muleka levelled after the break, Gent had several chances to regain the lead on the counter attack, but could not find the net. Standard made them pay in the 77th minute when Balikwisha scored what proved to be the winning goal.
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With so few chances created in the first 45 minutes, it was little surprise that Gent and Cercle Brugge went into the break at 0-0. The Buffalos looked better after three half-time substitutions, but it was the visitors who had the best chance, when Hoggas struck the post. Gent had a great opportunity to go in front ten minutes before time, after a foul on Fortuna in the box. Though Castro-Montes saw his penalty saved, he scored from the rebound to secure the Buffalos a valuable 1-0 win, moving them up to 9th in the table.
The Buffalos had the best of the first half against league leaders Club Brugge but could not get their noses in front. They were made to pay in the second half, with the visitors scoring three in a dazzling fifteen-minute spell—one from De Ketelaere and two from Dost—before Perez made it 4-0 in the 80th minute. While the margin of victory perhaps flattered the men from Bruges, they undeniably deserved the three points.