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While some players and teams have only just started gathering any real momentum roughly a month into the new season, it looks like others might find themselves having too much to catch up on. Plenty of interesting results helped changing the table around quite a bit, and shed light on a number of interesting narratives. Some of which we will look into in more detail below.
High-flying Forkel-crew defeat worrying Fola
Fola Esch's situation worsened on Wednesday evening, as their already shaky performances were further enhanced by a loss to Victoria Rosport on a day when the only team behind them, Käerjéng, won their game, sending Fola to the foot of the standings after the midweek games.
On this particular occasion, the Eschers did not look out of place, were far from being toyed with and actually did control some phases of the game, especially in the first half. Restricting spaces and defending in an aggressive, but compact low block essentially nullified chances of Rosport's famous counter-attacks successfully breaking through even once. The only first-half opportunity came in the third minute, when lightning-quick winger Ernesto Carratala-Jiménez missed a major chance to open the scoring early on.
The second half felt like a replay of the first in this sense. Again, Rosport get away on the break once, the ball gets to Carratala-Jiménez, except this time he did find the net from André Redekop's assist (a name that features in our weekly recaps more often than not at this point).
After Fola's game plan of sitting back and trying to keep the draw proved ineffective and required some tweaking, substitutions were made. But the approach barely changed: the hosts were still looking to defend in a solid, disciplined shape, only starting any sequences resembling an attack with the ball sporadically. They did get one final chance to score in stoppage time, which was eventually squandered by young midfielder Fabio Cerqueira Martins.
After their recent loss, Fola are now in the last place of the BGL Ligue for the first time since February, in the middle of last season. Back then, the new manager bounce Stefano Bensi could give the team was enough to get them over the line in the crucial battle against relegation, in the end sealing their top-flight place after a chaotic play-off game where they beat Jeunesse Canach with a 119th-minute decider.
This season, there were vows to avoid the same kind of scrutiny come May. But in the direction they are heading, they might be in a situation at the end of the season where the fans would really appreciate the extra one-off chance for the team to retain their first-division status. For a club that finished champions twice in a row in this current decade already, it is still shocking to digest.
But for Fola, who have lost seven of their eight matches so far, it is the harsh reality now, without the slightest hint of exaggeration. The gap to the relegation play-off places already stands at six points, while they would need seven more than their current total to be in a position of safety. This league can become quicksand for struggling teams overnight in these relatively early stages of the season, when a loss of ambition, motivation or self-belief can easily turn into a whirling vortex of losses, and before you know, the damage is done.
Mondorf: the team for the neutrals
BGL Ligue is not tailormade for a neutral fan’s ideal watching experience. The games start at the same time, the teams' line-ups are often unaccessible until the game starts, and it is generally hard to predict which games would provide elite entertainment for the ninety minutes.
Enter Mondorf to the scene. The Angry Goats have the highest scoring total so far (20 in 8 games) and the second-most goals conceded (18). Both average out well over two per game, and the 7th position they are currently occupying in the table shows the approach is more-or-less viable. Mondorf are fun, sometimes reckless, but always reliable entertainers nonetheless.
There are, on average, 4.75 goals per Mondorf game. And despite their latest game looking fairly more controlled and calm than usual, they still managed to increase the goal-per-game stat against Marisca Mersch.
The newly-promoted side have dropped a lot of the nervousness and stage freight that described them in their first few games in the club’s BGL Ligue history, and have lately started to play with more swagger and confidence, yielding them valuable points each game. They controlled yesterday's encounter reliably too, turning the game on its head after Mondorf’s opener via André Silva Moreira’s stunning direct corner goal, succeeded by a Benny Bresch-penalty.
All was going to plan for Mersch until Mondorf decided to turn rampage mode on, as usual. A 90+2’ penalty was duly converted by Oumar Gassama was followed up by yet another plot twist, a late winner from centre-back Costinha, who scored his second goal of the season after getting on the scoreline in the 4-0 rout against F91 Dudelange.
On a four-game unbeaten streak, Mondorf are a force to be reckoned with after last year’s historical sixth-place finish, but regardless of the end results, their games will always be a safe bet for everyone after a fun pastime on Sunday (or midweek).
Hesper and Stolz back to the glory days?
Alright, the glory days mentioned in the headline are not exactly from days long gone by. In fact, they are from last season, Hesperange's only first-division championship to date. Some might say it could be traced back to as recently as the beginning of the current campaign, when Swift achieved a draw at Slovan Bratislava before suffering a narrow defeat in the second leg of their Champions League qualifier.
Since that defeat though, something within the club changed. They got through The New Saints from Wales in the Europa Conference League before falling at the hands of Struga from North Macedonia in a tie where some of manager Carlos Fangueiro’s tactical decisions were highly debatable.
Many of these squad management questions and issues were centred upon a critical point: squad rotation. Fangueiro reiterated several times both to owner Flavio Becca and the media that he needs to offload some players because it would prove to be difficult managing 30 games of game time between 35 individuals evenly. In the end, he was far from getting his way: instead of selling, Becca insisted on buying more players, and as a consequence, Swift quickly ended up with 40 players in their senior squad. Although some of the late signings, like Karim Zedadka from Napoli or Bridge Ndilu from Nantes sound promising, it remains a challenging task to find a place for them in an already well-stocked XI.
This was the main problem with Hesper as the domestic season kicked off in August. Even the goalkeepers were kept on their toes about how the minutes would be managed, and in some areas of the pitch, keeping it stable and consistent without too many changes pays off. Instead, Hesper kept changing and the results were a bit below-par. A telling piece of statistics is that while last season they dropped only 13 points in 30 games (getting 77 from the maximum 90 achievable), in 2023/24 they have already dropped 8 after 8 matches played (16 from a possible 24 points on the board).
This suggests last season's tally was an outlier they might not be able to live up to this time, but encouraging signs can still be found that show Hesper will be right in the title race again. One such sign was the 90 minutes of their contest in Mondercange yesterday. To be precise, it started out as a contest but that impression faded away quickly once the Swift machine was in full flow.
The final result was 0-6. Mondercange, sitting fifth even after the shocking loss, are a steadily defending, otherwise strong and quality side this season, but they could do nothing to stop Hesper from scoring left, right and centre.
Dominik Stolz was the leading man, finding his feet after a slow start to the season and contributing with a hat-trick eventually. Torino loanee Lado Akhalaia will also find it a motivation boost to have scored and assisted in his 74 minutes on the pitch.
In the ten minutes after the hour mark, Mondercange goalkeeper Teddy Da Silva had to reach behind his back in disappointment to pick the ball out from the net four times in quick succession. Wout De Buyser and substitute Gustavo Hemkemeier scored the last two goals to complete an emphatic thrashing that might push Hesper back to the correct route.
Swift are now second behind unbeaten Differdange, and some momentum looks to be building. Whether the whole of Hesper’s super-sized squad can keep it going in the future, though, is an altogether different question.
Around the pitches
F91 Dudelange remain in midtable after a draw against ambitious Strassen – journeyman striker Nicolas Perez proved crucial in getting an important draw. Differdange recorded their fifth win of the season, Kenny Nagera's brace taking him to four goals in three games – the Frenchman is living up to his potential so far as he has hit the ground running. Käerjéng put an end to their long winless streak, stretching all the way back to last season's relegation play-off. In the process, they have overtaken Fola Esch on the table but still have a five-point deficit from Union Titus Pétange…
…who themselves are experiencing a rough patch. With captain Artur Abreu and key attacker Kai Merk on and off the injury list, they now lost to an energetic and inventive Racing Union side, who bounced back well from a narrow loss to Hesper at the weekend. Wiltz 71 kept a point at home against a dangerous Progrès Niedercorn side in what was perhaps the biggest surprise on the scorelines.
As always, the games' live commentaries, highlights and full video footage are all available on RTL.lu's Live Arena hub.