KRC Genk fans have learned it is unwise to head for the exits early during their UEFA Europa League campaign this season. With the Belgian club unbeaten since the start of the group stage, five of their ten goals in that period have been scored between the 75th minute and the final whistle – including three in added time.
VfB Stuttgart had the rug pulled from under them in last week's round of 16 opener, leading 1-0 until the 91st minute of a game they dominated, when substitute Glynor Plet headed the visitors level. It was perhaps a heavier blow than Stuttgart expected as they look forward to Thursday's decider: Genk are unbeaten in ten European home matches (W6 D4) while the German side have not won a two-legged springtime European tie in their last eight attempts.
The 26-year-old Dutchman Plet – who played in last year's round of 32 with FC Twente – is not taking anything for granted before the second leg, however. "Last week we got a good result, but this will be a totally different match in totally different circumstances," said the on-loan striker. "I hope the fans will give us massive support and we can count on a full house. We all have to go for it together and give it everything."
Group G winners, Mario Been's Genk have shared the goals around fairly equally among their forwards in Europe, with three for Benjamin De Ceulaer and two each for Jelle Vossen, Elyaniv Barda and Plet. The last-mentioned has been their joker all term, coming off the bench to torment tiring defences and head both of his UEFA Europa League goals – at Sporting Clube de Portugal and now Stuttgart – to snatch draws at the death.
"Who scores does not matter," insisted Plet, who made his name in the Netherlands during two prolific campaigns at second-division SC Telstar, before moving to Heracles Almelo and then Twente. His loan spell in Belgium this season has been a success with nine goals in 19 Eredivisie games for the third-placed team, most as a substitute; and with captain Vossen injured, he may be due a run in the starting lineup.
Plet, who followed up his rescue act against Stuttgart with a goal in Sunday's 2-0 home win against KV Kortrijk, said: "The coach told me the day after the Stuttgart game that I would start against Kortrijk. As a footballer, you obviously want to start instead of sitting on the bench, but you will not hear me complain. I want to make my minutes count and try to score goals. For now I am succeeding pretty well."
A UEFA Europa League final appearance in his home town of Amsterdam remains a long shot, though not an impossibility, yet for the moment Plet is in no rush to head back. "I feel happy in Genk," he said. "It is calm and we have a nice squad of players who are sticking close together."
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