American Exports: Sacha Kljestan, Anderlecht in good shape heading into Belgium's playoff
AMSTERDAM – Sacha Kljestan and three-peat hunters Anderlecht gained good ground in the Jupiler League title race on Sunday, schooling guests Oostende 4-0 to head into Belgium's championship hexagonal five points from the top.
The US midfielder (above) went the distance in his first start in three games. Kljestan combined expertly with fellow MLS alum Andy Najar – who bagged Anderlecht's second goal of the day – in the 52nd minute, only to have Aleksandar Mitrovic agonizingly put the former D.C. United winger's cross just wide.
The champs came into closing day 12 points behind tabletop rivals Standard Liège, but sliced it to 10 with the win and gained another five with the unique Belgian method of halving all points ahead of the 10-game title playoff. Anderlecht will start hexagonal play on March 29 holding the Europa League slot, three points back of Club Brugge and the second Champions League pass. Kljestan & Co. will learn their postseason schedule on Monday afternoon.
Next door in the Eredivisie, Juan Agudelo also returned to the lineup, putting in an industrious full shift as FC Utrecht settled for a 2-2 share at NEC Nijmegen.
The former New England Revolution forward was unable to find a shooting chance, but did some engine work in attack and added several defensive plays. Agudelo also drew a yellow card in the waning moments as Utrecht nudged four points clear of the trap door despite twice failing to protect a lead.
Elsewhere, Aron Jóhannsson was on for a rather quiet hour of work as AZ Alkmaar collapsed late for a 2-1 loss at FC Twente.
The Kaasboeren top scorer was limited to just 21 touches and a stray shot attempt, but departed with his side still ahead from an early Steven Berghuis free kick. However, Twente leveled with a little more than 20 minutes to play and won it on a last-minute strike by star man Dusan Tadic.
The harsh defeat pushed AZ 11 points adrift of the Netherlands' last Europa League berth with six games left. They did hold firm in seventh place, which at the end would be good for a place in the playoff for the additional tourney invite.
Across the North Sea in England's Premier League, Brad Friedel watched as Tottenham suffered a 1-0 home loss to archnemesis Arsenal. Having dropped three of four, Spurs slipped seven points behind the final Champions League placement.