Former Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld delivered a last-minute equalizer to Royal Antwerp, clinching the Belgian title in a thrilling season finale on Sunday.
In the closing moments of a tightly contested three-way race for the championship, Racing Genk and Union Saint-Gilloise seemed destined to become the league winners.
However, in the 94th minute, Antwerp’s Alderweireld struck a crucial goal, leveling the scoreline at 2-2 against Genk.
The moment ignited euphoric celebrations as it secured the long-awaited title for his hometown club, ending a 66-year championship drought.
Alderweireld, 34, who had joined Antwerp from Qatari side Al-Duhail the previous summer, expressed his emotions, stating, “I am speechless. We defied all odds and fought relentlessly for this. Despite facing adversity, we prevailed today.”
Antwerp finished the season one point ahead of both Genk and Union, who were poised to claim their first Belgian titles in 88 and 48 years, respectively. Union had recently returned to the top flight in 2021 after a prolonged absence.
In the 89th minute of the championship play-off matches, Antwerp seemed out of contention, trailing 2-1 while Union held a 1-0 lead at home against Club Brugge.
However, Japanese striker Shion Homma equalized for an under-strength Brugge, catapulting Genk into the forefront, despite having slim chances before kickoff.
At Genk, six minutes of added time were displayed, and in the fourth minute, Alderweireld unleashed a magnificent strike from 20 yards into the top corner, leaving the home crowd in awe.
Antwerp’s coach, Mark van Bommel, and some of his staff stormed onto the field to celebrate while the former Belgian defender raced the length of the pitch in front of the ecstatic Antwerp fans.
Meanwhile, Union, owned by Brighton owner Tony Bloom, ultimately succumbed to a 3-1 defeat as Brugge netted two additional goals in stoppage time.