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Club Brugge completes hat trick of Belgian titles

May 15, 2022 GMT
FILE - PSG's Marquinhos challenges for the ball with Brugge's Charles De Ketelaere, during the Champions League Group A soccer match between PSG and Club Brugge at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Club Brugge won the Belgian league title for the third season in a row, and the 18th time overall, qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process with a 3-1 win at Royal Antwerp on Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
FILE - PSG's Marquinhos challenges for the ball with Brugge's Charles De Ketelaere, during the Champions League Group A soccer match between PSG and Club Brugge at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Club Brugge won the Belgian league title for the third season in a row, and the 18th time overall, qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process with a 3-1 win at Royal Antwerp on Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
FILE - PSG's Marquinhos challenges for the ball with Brugge's Charles De Ketelaere, during the Champions League Group A soccer match between PSG and Club Brugge at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Club Brugge won the Belgian league title for the third season in a row, and the 18th time overall, qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process with a 3-1 win at Royal Antwerp on Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
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FILE - PSG's Marquinhos challenges for the ball with Brugge's Charles De Ketelaere, during the Champions League Group A soccer match between PSG and Club Brugge at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Club Brugge won the Belgian league title for the third season in a row, and the 18th time overall, qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process with a 3-1 win at Royal Antwerp on Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)
1 of 2
FILE - PSG's Marquinhos challenges for the ball with Brugge's Charles De Ketelaere, during the Champions League Group A soccer match between PSG and Club Brugge at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. Club Brugge won the Belgian league title for the third season in a row, and the 18th time overall, qualifying for next season’s Champions League in the process with a 3-1 win at Royal Antwerp on Sunday, May 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — Club Brugge won the Belgian league title for the third season in a row, and the 18th time overall, with a 3-1 victory at Royal Antwerp on Sunday to also qualify for next season’s Champions League.

After finishing the regular season behind surprise package Union Saint-Gilloise, the “Blauw en Zwart” defeated the Brussels club twice in the playoffs to turn the tide.

Brugge has conceded just one goal in its five playoff matches so far — four wins and a draw — and has now amassed enough wins and points to guarantee the title before next week’s final round of matches.

“We had to chase from October onwards, but the way we dealt with it was great,” said Hans Vanaken, who scored from the spot in the second half to level the scoring against Antwerp. “Kudos to the team, who never panicked. I am very happy that we did it now and don’t have to wait until the last round of matches.”

It’s the first time the club from the “Venice of the North” has secured a hat trick of titles since 1978 when it claimed three championships in a row under manager Ernst Happel.

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Following the departure of coach Philippe Clement to Monaco in January, it was left to his replacement Alfred Schreuder to lead Brugge to the title. Schreuder won’t be guiding the team next season after he agreed a contract to succeed Erik ten Hag as Ajax manager.

Back in the elite of Belgian soccer after 48 years, Brussels club Union Saint-Gilloise had a shot at matching Leicester’s fairytale success in the Premier League in 2016 but lacked efficiency and experience in the final sprint.

On its return to the topflight, the club led the race to the title since October but lost its way last weekend when it went down 2-0 at home against Brugge despite creating the best chances.

Brugge then made a decisive step toward the title with another display of clinical efficiency to defeat its Brussels rival 1-0 at home midweek.

Union Saint-Gilloise is not very well known outside the country, but the club founded in 1897 is part of Belgian soccer’s aristocracy. It got the first of its 11 titles in 1904 and played 60 straight matches undefeated from 1933-35, a record that still stands in the soccer-mad country.

The club also enjoyed a series of successes on the European stage, reaching the semifinals of the now defunct Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1960. Union was, however, relegated to the second division in 1963, the start of a downfall that saw it drop as low as the fourth division in the 1980s.

Back in professional soccer since 2015, Union has been revived by the arrival of Tony Bloom, the chairman of English club Brighton who became the club’s majority shareholder alongside business partner Alex Muzio.

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