A combined 3 points and 0 goal difference from the two runaway leaders and Fola’s victory over in-form Differdange provided superb talking points about the weekend. A perfect mixture of goals and drama sets us up for a lot to talk through below.

The scorelines: 

Mondercange 1-2 Jeunesse Esch

Fola Esch 3-2 Differdange

Progrès Niedercorn 3-0 Wiltz

Hostert 1-3 Victoria Rosport

Racing Union Luxembourg 1-1 Käerjéng

UNA Strassen 1-2 F91 Dudelange

Union Titus Pétange 2-1 Swift Hesper

Etzella Ettelbrück 0-3 Mondorf

Game of the Weekend #19 

Swift Hesperange had been sitting 5 points above Dudelange on top of the table, having only lost points on two occasions before the weekend – in draws to Rosport, and their current opponents Union Titus Pétange. That previous head-to-head encounter was very memorable too as that was the first time Hesper dropped points in 2022/23. Trailing 1-3 at half-time, 10-man Hesper were then required to make a late comeback to secure a draw. This time around, Union were at home, at the Stade Municipal, looking to put a dent in Hesper’s invincible ambitions.

The game was well and truly kickstarted by a crucial highlight early on: Kai Merk received the ball inside the box in the third minute, when he was brought down by defender Jerry Prempeh, who moved just a second too late. The decision to award a penalty was never in doubt, and Union’s captain Artur Abreu confidently converted the spot kick, giving his team a valuable lead in the opening stages.

It’s fair to say Hesper were stunned by falling behind so soon. They kept conceding chances and leaving UTP’s deadly attacking force unmarked and with plenty of space behind. They didn’t need a lot of time to exploit it: Merk released Kempes Tekiela into a pocket of space in the left halfspace, from where the former Borussia Dortmund academy product put the ball past a helpless Géordan Dupire.

The state of play didn’t change much afterwards: although Union’s chances tamed down a bit, their defence remained resilient and their midfield dominant. Then it slowly turned around: as the hosts started producing less, Hesper’s build-ups became livelier and more dangerous. It paid off in the 27th minute, when Dominik Stolz made space for himself on the right wing and tucked it in for the Spanish-Luxembourger winger Ken Corral to tap in from close range. The leaders looked like they were slowly finding their feet in the game, with more than an hour of time left to make a comeback.

The rest of the first half passed without any dangerous chances apart from a doubtful situation inside UTP’s box, but the referee didn’t award a penalty. Going into the second half, Union’s primary plan must have been to minimise the opposition threat and see the result out. That was soon made all the more challenging by defender Jérémy Mawatu getting a second yellow card – his suspension forced manager Yannick Kakoko’s hand to sub one of his main threats, Kai Merk off, and bring on an extra defender in Sambou Sarr.

The last half an hour of the game was particularly tense as managers had to resort to preventing their teams from red cards where possible. In the chaos, Pascal Carzaniga (Hesper head coach) was sent off for constant complaining, while UTP midfielder Alexander Laukart achieved an unwanted feat: to get sent off in both games against the same club in the same season. Union had to play the last few minutes with 9 men under intense pressure, but goalkeeper André Barrela helped keep the result for his team.

The all-important win keeps Union’s European hopes alive, but it’s a lot more significant from the other team’s point of view. Swift Hesperange had been the only European top-flight team to go unbeaten in all competitions since the season started – until Sunday. They maintain their first place on the table but they can’t be blamed for feeling sorrow after this loss.

Player of the Weekend #19  

Progrès Niedercorn have been in the best form of all teams since the league’s restart in early February, winning all four games so far. It has been achieved in huge part thanks to Sochaux loanee Elias Filet’s inspired form, who’s currently sitting third on the scoring charts.

Although he did continue from where he left off this past weekend, one of his teammates managed to outshine him. Antoine Mazure provided an assist to Filet first three minutes in, before getting the favour returned by his fellow Frenchman from a cross. The third goal was also scored by Mazure, who controlled a rebound with composure, dribbled his way past the opposition and curved the ball past the entire defence. With his leadership, Progrès beat Wiltz 3-0 and took another step towards Europa Conference League football.

Goal of the Weekend #19 

There were several goals that required brilliant technique to score, such as Mazure’s second hit against Wiltz, or Issam El Alami’s powerful shot that clattered in off the bar to equalise for Fola Esch against  Differdange at Stade Émile Mayrisch.

If we’re looking for a goal that was one of its kind, though, the best choice is Eliot Gashi’s strike for Hostert. Gashi, on loan from F91 Dudelange in search of more frequent game time, was given a corner from the left side. Noticing the disorganisation, miscommunication and wrong positioning of the  Rosport defenders and the goalkeeper, the winger pounced on the opportunity. His cheeky curved cross whistled in at the near post, with keeper Niklas Bürger watching helplessly. The goal wasn’t enough for the win for Hostert though, who find themselves in an automatic relegation place after their most recent loss.

Storyline of the Weekend #19 

Differdange have sacked their head coach Stéphane Léoni after their shock loss to struggling Fola Esch. Leoni had only taken over the team during the season himself, after previous manager Pedro Resende was shown the door in the autumn.

In only nine games in charge, Léoni recorded 5 wins, a draw and 3 losses with Differdange. It didn’t provide sufficient improvement to push them above mid-table, and even fifth place is now 11 points away for the team.

Youth coach Hélder Dias will be caretaker manager until Léoni’s successor is found and announced.