Machida goal is enough to secure Union first Belgian silverware for 89 years

May 10 – Union Saint-Gilloise defeated Antwerp 1-0 in the Belgian Cup final at the Heysel Stadium on Thursday to clinch their first piece of silverware since 1935. 

In a hard-fought but dull final, the Brussels-based club prevailed with a first-half goal from Koki Machida to win the domestic cup for the first time since 1914, prompting scenes of delirium among the Union fans.

On the stroke of half-time, the Japanese international headed home a corner against the run of play. Antwerp, league and cup winners last season, responded in the second half and almost levelled through Jurgen Ekkelenkamp in the final minutes.

Union manager Alexander Blessin said that he was speechless to describe his team’s achievement.

At the start of the second half, the match was halted when the referee warned Antwerp supporters that players would leave the pitch if they continued to off flares.

“We have to be realistic: we are Antwerp. We know where we come from. Last year we won everything – the cup final and the title,” reflected Antwerp manager Mark Van Bommel, whose future at the club remains uncertain.  “This season we won the Super Cup and qualified for the Champions League. They had never heard that tune at the Bosuil. And it will be difficult to achieve that again in the short term. Maybe at all even.”

“Then you try to qualify for the Play-offs during the season – an important goal. And you reach the cup final. In the meantime, a lot of things happen. So you cannot possibly say that it is a bad season for us. Only if you would look at in the short term.”

Before World War II, Union was Belgium’s most successful club, winning the league crown 11 times.  They spent decades in the wilderness before enjoying a revival under Tony Bloom’s ownership.

This season they have been dominant but following a recent slump in form Union ceded the initiative in the playoffs, leaving the club on the brink of missing out on the league title in agonising fashion for a third season in a row.

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