Belgium off to a smooth ride in World Cup

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Lukaku’s double as they rout debutants Panama 3-0 in Group G opener

Romelu Lukaku scores two second-half goals in Belgium's 3-0 victory over Panama

Romelu Lukaku scores two second-half goals in Belgium’s 3-0 victory over Panama

19.06.18 Tuesday, Dubai: A star-studded Belgium came alive in the second half to rout debutants Panama 3-0 in their opening Group G World Cup encounter in Sochi on Monday.

Romelu Lukaku, who was the topscorer in the Red Devils’ qualifying campaign in the road to Russia, struck twice after Dries Mertens opened the account with a scorching volley soon after the match resumed in the second session.

After struggling to find the net before halftime, the world No. 3 ranked team needed only two minutes to open the scoring in the second half.

Mertens scored with a well-struck one-timer from just inside the area after the Panamanian defence failed to clear a ball.

His shot went over Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and into the top far corner.

The floodgates opened soon after that when the awesome combination of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne paved the way for Lukaku to strike with a diving header inside the box.

Few minutes later, the Manchester United striker put his name on the scoresheet again to keep his cool and slot one past a sprawled Penedo.

Panama, the central American side, did well to hold Belgium’s supremely talented team at bay till halftime. Their fans largely outnumbered the Belgians at Fisht Stadium and constantly chanted in support of their team.

Belgium pushed forward from the start and it didn’t take long before they were threatening rival goalkeeper Penedo. One of Belgium’s best opportunities was a close-range shot by Hazard that was nicely saved by Penedo near the end of the half.

With a line-up that looks like a Who’s Who of the English Premier League, Belgium showed a sense of urgency from the start though it did not result in enough chances in the first half.

In the 20th minute, De Bruyne created the best of chances when he broke through from the right and laid off pass across the goalmouth with Lukaku lurking in position — but a smart piece of defending denied the giant striker.

The underdogs, who have been playing together for a good number of years together, fought admirably in the midfield while captain Roman Torres led the side from central defence.

Playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation, they were content to wait for the breaks and even earned a freekick early on in the first half.

Dedryck Boyata started in Belgium’s defence as the Celtic player profited from the absence of Thomas Vermaelen and Vincent Kompany to play in a central defensive three.

Panama’s line-up at the Fisht Stadium was as confirmed by coach Hernan Dario Gomez on the eve of the game as they made their World Cup bow.

Courtesy : GulfNews

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