A highly productive week on the loan front, perhaps the most impressive of the season, saw Gael Kakuta’s finest hour in the professional game and a goal for Kevin de Bruyne amongst a number of positive events over the past seven days.
After sitting on the bench away to Carlo Ancelotti’s PSG in midweek French Cup action, Kakuta was restored to the Dijon starting line-up for the weekend home match against Nice and went on to have his best game of his brief spell at the Normandy club.
The game itself was a quiet affair until the late stages of the first half, when Kakuta brought it to life with his third goal in as many starts. Picking up the ball inside Nice’s half, he turned and fed striker Brice Jovial before receiving the ball back and rifling an effort low into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.
A goal to the good, Gael and Dijon started the second half well and would double their advantage before the hour mark. This time Kakuta turned provider, trapping a long ball with ease before driving at the Nice defence and releasing Jovial for an exquisite finish.
The Under-21 international was withdrawn five minutes from time to a standing ovation and his name being sung from all quarters. You can see the best of his involvement by clicking HERE.
In Belgium, a week after criticising his team-mates for a perceived lack of effort and commitment, Kevin de Bruyne led the way in recording an overdue win for Genk by scoring the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory at Bergen.
With his team leading by just a single strike midway through the second half the Belgian international collected Fabian Camus’ ball on the left, ran towards goal and arrowed a left-footed strike into the bottom corner. You can see it HERE.
The productivity continued on British shores too, particularly in Scotland where Ben Gordon and Kilmarnock recorded a fine 1-0 victory away to trouble-stricken Rangers. Gordon has particularly fond memories of Ibrox, having made his debut for the club there, and was an important part of a clean sheet and impressive away win.
In England, Josh McEachran had the weekend off with Swansea eliminated from FA Cup contention but goalkeepers Sam Walker and Rhys Taylor both featured twice this past week with positive results all round.
Walker and Yeovil beat both Wycombe Wanderers and Colchester United 3-2 to pull five points clear of the relegation zone, whilst Taylor and Rotherham beat Accrington Stanley 1-0 on Tuesday night to record a second straight clean sheet before earning a hard-fought point away to Burton Albion.
It would be harsh to hold Walker responsible for any of the goals Yeovil conceded over the two matches but opinion amongst Glovers fans remains split at this early stage; torn between seeing the obvious talent he has and becoming frustrated at apparently not being a commanding presence in the box. That, as much as anything, will come with professional experience.
Millers fans, meanwhile, look to be taking to Welshman Taylor after initially being sceptical about his arrival. He has been in good form and is certainly the number one until the end of the season, with a chance of a permanent deal as the club prepares to move into its new stadium for 2012-13.
There was no action this week for Dutchman Jeffrey Bruma, who is still not 100% after a recent hamstring problem, but there was plenty in the Dutch league, where Milan Lalkovic made a long-awaited debut for ADO Den Haag.
The Slovakian winger played 25 minutes from the bench in a 1-1 draw with Excelsior and looked the part, buzzing around in his usual style on the left of the attack, looking to probe and make things happen with driving runs inside. He had no standout moments but will hope for a start in the near future. Kenneth Omeruo, meanwhile, is no closer to a work permit to facilitate his involvement for the club.
Whilst Lalkovic prospered, Tomas Kalas and Patrick van Aanholt floundered in one of Vitesse Arnhem’s worst showings of the season. They went down 4-1 at home to Steve McClaren’s FC Twente side and neither covered themselves in glory, with Kalas directly at fault for Twente’s second goal and Van Aanholt substituted shortly before their third.
Kalas has largely been exceptional this season but, still aged 18, we are perhaps witnessing the toll of a professional season on a young man after a few shaky performances in 2012. In little more than a year he has gone from playing reserve team football in the Czech Republic to being at the heart of a top-half Eredivisie team defence and there are bound to be bumps in the road.
For Van Aanholt, regular starts are good news, but inconsistent performances are less so. He looks to make a regular attacking impact and is certainly capable of that but whether due to his own style or him being less than familiar with some of his new team-mates, he doesn’t seem to be quite 100% comfortable yet. That may come towards the end of the season.
Ulises Dávila and Jong Vitesse beat FC Lienden 6-0 in midweek action, and the Mexican notched the final goal with a delighful free kick. He was rewarded with a place on the bench against Twente but didn’t get on.
Moving our attentions to Spain, Thibaut Courtois conceded his first goal of 2012 in Europa League action away to Lazio and perhaps for the first time all season he was at fault, spilling a long shot and allowing Miroslav Klose to tap in the rebound.
Atlético responded to win 3-1 but were held to a 1-1 draw at Sporting Gijon on Sunday in a game which saw Courtois’ domestic shutout run ended after 500 minutes. Uruguayan defender Sebastian Eguren netted after some less than stellar defending but Courtois was otherwise his cool, measured self throughout.
We finish, as usual, with Matej Delac, but the Croatian stopper is unlikely to feature at all in the second half of the Czech season after Ceske Budejovice signed a third goalkeeper this week.
Apparently dissatisfied with Delac and Zdenek Krizek, manager Frantisek Cipro went out and signed Michal Danek before proclaiming him to be his immediate first choice for the remainder of the season, relegating Delac to third choice. It’s the latest in a catastrophic series of events in the career of a once highly-rated teenager, and if he is to bounce back in any way from this, one would think it would have to be away from Chelsea.