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In the 2023/24 season, for the first time, a match had to be postponed due to adverse weather conditions. Despite the majority of the country being under a yellow weather alert for the day, the fact that almost all other matches proceeded without any issues is quite surprising.
Hesper become latest team to fail to beat leaders FCD
The eleventh matchday of the National Division began after a week of domestic cup assignments for all top-tier clubs. Thanks to the lack of any sort of seeding, games of various standards were drawn purely by luck.
The reigning national champions, Swift Hesper, could hardly have faced an easier opponent as they were tasked with overcoming the third-division mid-table side, Red Star Merl. In contrast, the cup’s defending winners, FC Differdange, were drawn against fellow cup specialists and traditional domestic heavyweight, F91 Dudelange, in the round of 32.
While few would have predicted FC Differdange to progress more smoothly than Hesper, that's precisely what happened. At one point, Merl led by two goals against arguably the best squad, manager, and infrastructure in the country. It might have seemed like Swift fielded a much-changed squad consisting only of fringe players and youth, but that was not the case. For example, former Ligue 1 and Morocco international striker Rachid Alioui reduced the deficit just before halftime, keeping some hopes alive for the giants.
In the second half, Hesper left it late. Former Luxembourg winger Maurice Deville first equalized through a fortunate deflection, and in the final minutes of normal time, left-back Cédric Sacras secured the win for Hesper, exploiting a rapidly tiring amateur backline. The amateurs had battled heroically for 90 minutes but ultimately collapsed at the gates of victory.
Meanwhile, Differdange defeated F91 by two goals in a closely contested match, even if FCD didn't have to stage a comeback on the scale of Hesper's. Jorginho, the brilliant summer signing, opened the scoring in the 5th minute. The game remained open, and F91 chased the lead until the closing minutes when an ambitious attack found the guest's backline exposed. Young Moussa Suso capitalized on it, doubling Differdange's advantage.
The win meant the black-and-reds could extend their unbeaten streak in all competitions to 13 games, beyond the beginning of the league season, when they lost to Slovenian side Maribor after extra time in the Europa Conference League. However, the toughest game in the league had awaited them until this Sunday: the away fixture at Hesperange.
On that day, nerves were apparent, resulting in a few clumsy extra touches by defenders. Hesper's Belgian wing-back, Luca Ferrara, capitalized on the opportunity and scored the first goal just five minutes into the game.
The majority of the first half saw speculative FCD efforts, as the leaders struggled to break down the dogged home defense, which set up a low block with five players constantly in the backline.
Thanks to their committed defensive organization, goalkeeper Géordan Dupire had few tasks in the opening 45 minutes, but he performed them diligently. After the break, FCD's dominance intensified, with pacey attackers Jorginho and Kenny Nagera finding some space between the lines to attempt runs at the defenders, even though they often found themselves outnumbered. It looked like Hesper would be the team to halt Differdange's victorious march through all opponents and claim the top spot with a win.
However, Nagera had different plans. After scoring six goals in his previous five games, the ex-PSG academy graduate added an assist to his record. He delivered the cross that met Diogo Lamas’ header to equalize late on.
Ultimately, both sides settled for a draw they appeared content with, maintaining their positions as the top two teams in the table, with only one point separating them. With six wins and five draws, FCD remained unbeaten, but they needed more confident wins to secure their push for a first title in club history.
Käerjéng and Fola grab four points combined
In a league where anyone can beat anyone on any given day, two things seem certain on most weekends: that the two teams in the relegation zone, Käerjéng and Fola, would usually lose, often without putting up much of a fight.
This trend was broken not just once, but twice in a matter of minutes yesterday, with Käerjéng earning a 4-1 victory and a 1-1 draw.
Käerjéng achieved the bigger upset as they traveled to Rosport to face a Victoria side in scintillating form, competing for a podium place with their dynamic attacking play in recent matches.
None of this was apparent at Party-Rent-Arena, where Rosport seemed unsettled without their key attacker, Ernesto Carratala-Jiménez. His replacement, Thiago Pato, proved inadequate. Yan Bouché maintained his excellent form and managed to score a nice goal, but by that point, Käerjéng had already secured a two-goal lead.
Julien Fostier played a pivotal role in this unlikely victory, scoring the first two goals himself (the second from a penalty), and assisting the third goal for Ousmane Baldé shortly after the second half began.
Further credit must go to 34-year-old head coach Franck Rinaldo, who maintained faith in his players after a challenging start to the season. This faith is starting to pay off, as the team also held Hesperange to a 0-0 draw last month.
The only team below Käerjéng in the table is Fola Esch, who have only managed a single win this season. Their match against Strassen didn't seem likely to yield success.
The first half was dominated by Strassen's creative and versatile attacking setup, with players like Nicolas Perez, Florik Shala, and Vova creating numerous scoring opportunities, only to be thwarted by Emmanuel Cabral, who saved everything that came his way.
The only time Cabral found himself helpless was after a sloppy penalty, conceded to last year's reserve championship top scorer, Shala. Fola manager Stefano Bensi had the chance to apply his knowledge after recently acquiring UEFA's National C License in the final half-hour, injecting life into the team and shifting from a primarily defensive game plan.
To everyone's surprise, the Escher team began to turn up the heat towards the end of the game, and their efforts paid off when Oskar Ekeberg found the net three minutes before the end with a brilliant close-range goal after a flawless first touch.
Across the pitches
We witnessed two hat-tricks during the gameweek. Edvin Muratović of Racing Union Luxembourg scored his hat-trick, which included a tap-in, a direct free-kick, and a penalty, to inspire an emphatic 3-1 victory against Wiltz 71. His task was made slightly easier by Wiltz and Luxembourg goalkeeper Ralph Schon being suspended for this fixture following a second yellow card in a recent cup match. With this win, Racing escaped the relegation play-off places, at least temporarily.
The other hat-trick came from Union Titus Pétange striker Valentin Fuss, who hadn't found the net in any of his first nine games this season until he broke the deadlock against Mondorf. Fuss's efforts were complemented by captain Artur Abreu's penalty, resulting in a flattering 4-1 scoreline. After a slow start to the season, UTP has once again demonstrated their potential, showing they are on par with last year's performance when they finished fourth.
Mondorf's slump, however, continues. Their recent 8-1 cup victory against amateur team Erpeldange appeared to halt the slide, but their resounding defeat in Pétange serves as the latest reality check in a season following their best-ever sixth-place finish in 2022/23.
The two newly-promoted teams have had a tough time. Schifflange's poor form persists, with four defeats and two draws in their last six fixtures, leading them to slide down the table. In their latest match, they conceded three goals without a response to F91 Dudelange, with three different names on the scoresheet (van Lingen, Hadji, Moussaki).
Dudelange is closely competing with Progrès for the top spots. The Wasps maintain a slight advantage, holding a one-point lead after Mondercange's visit. Walid Jarmouni, one of the league's influential summer recruits, was responsible for Progrès' only goal of the afternoon, marking his seventh goal in 11 games this campaign.
This week, we will witness mid-week cup games that were postponed from the previous week before the teams return for one last BGL Ligue outing before the end of the year 2023.
As always, you can find live commentaries, highlights, and full video footage of the games on RTL.lu's Live Arena hub.