In a matchday where several of the big teams struggled, Hesper edged five points ahead on the table, while the fight against relegation has intensified to a previously unbelievable extent as the picture now involves a handful of clubs. For a more detailed breakdown keep reading!
F91 Dudelange 0-1 Racing Union Luxembourg
Wiltz 3-2 Jeunesse Esch
Victoria Rosport 2-3 Progrès Niedercorn
Käerjéng 0-0 Hostert
Swift Hesper 3-0 UNA Strassen
Mondorf 2-0 Union Titus Pétange
Differdange 6-0 Etzella Ettelbrück
Fola Esch 2-0 Mondercange
Game of the weekend #18:
F91 Dudelange and Racing FCUL have been on contrasting paths since the winter break. F91 started the spring as league leaders but soon lost their position, in a worrying 1-4 draw against impressively attacking Progrès Niedercorn. They did what had to be done the following week by a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Hostert but fans had all the right to remain sceptical following a rocky restart to the season.
Racing, on the other hand, started off on the front foot, grinding out a win away from home against dangerous mid-table opponents US Mondorf. They did suffer a minor setback by losing to the invincible Swift Hesper but overall, it seemed like the capital city's team were on the right track.
This was the perception regarding the teams as we arrived at Stade Jos Nosbaum on Sunday afternoon. F91 hosted Racing in an attempt to clinch their first place back from Hesper’s grasp with a possible win.
The game itself started rather quietly, with the opening stages bringing a few chances from either side. F91 controlled the ball and dictated the tempo, but Racing, as always, played to the opponent's weaknesses, triggering a press after every loose ball or defensive disorganisation from the hosts. The biggest chance in the first half came after a short corner, played towards Jonathan Hennetier who was lurking outside the box, and the well-placed shot found its way on target, although Lucas Fox saved it comfortably.
An eventless first half definitely favoured Racing Union in their quest to keep one of the best attacking forces in the country at bay, and take at least one point from a usually relentless Dudelange team. Dudelange did have the ball and tried building attacks but most of them came to nothing thanks to an alert and proactive Racing defence.
The second half brought no major changes. Both sides had several chances, but neither could put anyone through on goal on in a clear-cut situation. RFCUL defended well enough to deserve a clean sheet, but their direct attacks mostly consisted of hopeless long balls in behind the Dudelange backline to be picked up by Fox or the centre-backs. Although the state of play didn't change and the managers couldn’t surprise each other with any tweaks throughout the second 45 minutes, the game was by no means boring.
Going into the last 10 minutes, it felt as though both sides were settling for the draw. It took a costly turnover from Dudelange defender Vincent Decker for that to change. After losing possession, the
hosts conceded a shot from Jérôme Simon, whose attempt was parried away by Fox, but the rebound was converted by second-half substitute Adrian Ahmetxhekaj. This was the 22-year old talent's first goal in 17 games this season.
Two losses in three games could be a dealbreaker for Dudelange. Hesperange edged five points ahead with their win later on the day, while Racing are on a good path towards securing Europa Conference League qualification. For F91, this week has to be about figuring out their problems and solving them, hoping Hesper will start stumbling.
Player of the Weekend #18:
Amine Naïfi's signing has been a great deal of business for Differdange so far. The 23-year old French attacking midfielder joined the club from hometown team US Sarre-Union, and it's fair to say that he has taken the league by storm since his arrival in January. In his 2 BGL Ligue games so far, he's had two goals and an assist – an eyecatching hit from a free kick last week, and a further two goal contributions this time around. His team demolished bottom-of-the-table Etzella Ettelbrück 6-0 too, so his place in the list is absolutely justified.
Goal of the Weekend #18:
Wiltz's game was level quite late into the second half against Jeunesse Esch, who had come back from 2-0 behind earlier. Although the hosts did deserve to get ahead for the third time too, the goal didn't come.
Enter Chris Phillips. The former Luxembourg international is in the form of his life and is playing at a level that could secure him a professional contract again sooner or later – it's been a trend throughout the season and on Sunday, he proved his confidence and composure on the ball. He got the ball from a throw in and started on a mesmerising solo run, taking out no less than 5(!) Jeunesse defenders over a few yards en route to the opponents' box, where he calmly slotted it past helpless goalkeeper Kévin Sommer on the one-on-one.
Storyline of the Weekend #18:
Things still aren’t getting better for Mondercange. If anything, they are getting worse. The newly-promoted team sacked Dinis de Sousa from the managerial seat after a disappointing run that has lasted over most of the autumn. For some reason, the staff waited with this decision throughout the 3-month-long winter break and then relieved him from his duties after a mere two games since the restart.
For the third game, they brought in Olivier Ciancanelli, who has had all sorts of jobs across the Luxembourgish football pyramid in the past 15 years, including stints at Mondercange before. He left his latest managerial job more than four years ago though, when he was sacked from Jeunesse Canach. Since then, he has been working in Niedercorn's youth setup.
His methods haven't proved fruitful as of yet, as his team played Fola Esch (whose own series of misery has been well-documented in previous articles), and came out as 2-0 losers. FCM are only one point above the relegation play-off places at the moment, and find themselves in the worst form ahead of such a crucial phase in the year. Their next eight games include facing 6 of the top 8 teams according to the table. Unless they wake up soon, Mondercange might be in for a rough time for the remainder of 2022/23.