Belgium got their campaign off to triumphant start after easing their way to a 3-0 victory against Russia in St Petersburg.
Romelu Lukaku scored twice as the world’s number one football nation bagged all three points in a game-high match up against hapless Russia at their opening game in Group B on Saturday.
There were plenty of threats that the Russians had to deal with against star-studded side. The Russians started highly motivated on home soil but the Belgians kept the match at slow pace with their set-pieces.
It took the Red Devils 11 minutes to open their account after Inter striker capitalized on an indecision caused by Dries Mertens’ searching cross to put the ball in the net, sending fans at the Krestovsky Stadium in a rapturous celebration.
Lukaku paid tribute to his Inter Milan team-mate Christian Eriksen, celebrating his goal by shouting “Chris, Chris, I love you” in front of a television camera.
Belgium cranked in the pressure and added a second through first-half substitute Thomas Meunier in the 34th minute to give the visitors a commanding lead going into the break.
Although Stanislav Cherchesov’s men tried to turn up after the restart but that did not threaten Courtois for once.
The goals kept coming for Belgium sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku.
It got worse for Russia in second-half stoppage time as Lukaku added a third after Meunier played him through for another slick finish.
Lukaku’s 62nd international goal silenced the majority of the 34,000 crowd who had booed Belgium for taking a knee against racism before kick-off.
Belgium next travel to Denmark on Thursday while Russia host Finland a day earlier.
Roberto Martinez, Belgium Coach: “The performance is very pleasing. It is never easy to start a tournament of this magnitude and we looked a team very concentrated for 90 minutes,” Martinez said.
“We kept a clean sheet in a very good way and the win will allow us to grow into the tournament.”
Stanislav Cherchesov, Russia coach: “The result seems fair. It could have been closer but for some silly mistakes from us. We’ve played them four times [recently] now and not beaten them.”
“I expressed my dissatisfaction [to the team] in the normal form. I did not say anything to Shunin or to Semenov because there is a team on the field and there are individual points on the field to be improved. It hurts allowing such goals but one should play in the right manner. Our task is to prepare and it is absolutely right that we will have a round of criticism,”
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen (Vermaelen 77); Castagne (Meunier 27), Dendoncker, Tielemans, T Hazard; Mertens (E Hazard 72), Lukaku, Carrasco (Praet 77)
Russia: Shunin; Mário Fernandes, Semenov, Dzhikiya, Zhirkov (Karavaev 43); Ozdoev, Barinov (Diveev 46); Zobnin (Mukhin 63), Golovin, Kuzyaev (Cheryshev 30; Miranchuk 63); Dzyuba
Acknowledgement: Betway Ghana (Headline Sponsor)
Mark F. | SilverFM