Fenerbahce strike a blow in Brussels as Belgian clubs struggle in Europe

By Samindra Kunti in Brussels

March 8 – On a perfect night in the Belgian capital, Fenerbahce ran out 3-0 winners against Union with goals from Michy Batshuayi, Jayden Oosterwolde and Dusan Tadic to boost their Conference League’s hopes. 

On his return to Belgium, there was almost a sense of inevitability about Batshuayi, with 18 goals to his name in the Turkish league, finding the net. In the 20th minute, the striker was in the right spot in the box to finish from close range, 0-1. The goal had come against the run of play in the round of 16 tie but confirmed the fine form of Batshuayi, who was preferred to first-choice forward Edin Dzeko as Fenerbahce want to prioritise their quest back home for the Turkish title, trailing Istanbul rivals Galatasaray by two points.

The Belgian league leaders struggled to regain a measure of control faced with Fenerbahce’s smooth build-up play and returned to the dressing room without a single attempt on target.

The second half represented a true test for the hosts and while they upped the pace goalmouth action remained rare.

Backed by vociferous away support, Fenerbahce sat back and lurked on the counter. That paid dividends in the final minutes of the match as the visitors, following a sustained spell of pressure on their backline, picked Union off. Dzeko set up Jayden Oosterwolde, who slipped the ball past the hosts’s goalkeeper, 2-0. In injury time, Tadic wrapped up the victory from the penalty spot.

The defeat compounded a miserable night for Belgian clubs in European competition. Earlier on Thursday, Club Brugge fell 2-1 to Molde following a grandstand finish that saw top scorer Fredrik Gulbrandsen cancel out Maxim De Cuyper’s 85th-minute equaliser. The Norwegian club remains undefeated on home soil against Belgian opposition.

Elsewhere in the Conference League, Ajax held Aston Villa to a goalless draw as both Lille and Maccabi Tel Aviv got comfortable away wins at Olympiacos and Sturm Graz.

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