Soccer-Club Brugge win Belgium title after late surge in championship playoffs

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Club Brugge completed a late surge to the Belgian title as a goalless draw at home to neighbours Cerle Brugge on Sunday ensured them a sixth championship in the last nine seasons.

The draw allowed Club Brugge to finish one point ahead of Union Saint Gilloise and three ahead of Anderlecht, who both had hopes of winning the championship on the last day of the season.

Club Brugge ended with 50 points with Union on 49 after they won 2-0 away at Racing Genk but Anderlecht lost 3-1 away at last season’s champions Royal Antwerp and ended on 46.

Sunday’s title success completed for Club Brugge a remarkable title success under a caretaker coach after they had finished the regular 30-match season in fifth place, 19 points behind leaders Union.

Regular season points are halved when the clubs go into the six-team playoff mini league but Club Brugge still had a major task to haul in the sides above them.

They fired coach Ronny Deila and promoted former defender Nicky Hayen from reserve team coach before staging a unbeaten 10-match run in the championship playoff group.

Last weekend’s victory away at Anderlecht, who had been in pole position, left Club Brugge needing only to avoid defeat in Sunday’s derby to take the title, although Hayen elected to watch from his office in the stadium as he was suspended.

But they were fortunate not to lose as a controversial VAR decision canceled out a potential Cercle goal in the final six minutes.

Club Brugge qualify directly into the group phase of next season’s Champions League while Union go into the qualifying rounds of the competition.

Union, who won the last of their 11 Belgian titles in 1935, also narrowly missed out on the final day of last season.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by xx)

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