The shock of the Denmark vs Finland game was not enough for UEFA to stop that game and Belgium vs Russia continued in the same vein. Finland grabbed a shock victory over Denmark, winning the game by a single goal. In the same group, Belgium took on Russia.
Belgium controlled play in the early moments and were rewarded soon enough. A lofted ball catches Russia off guard and despite it being relatively easy to deal with, Andrei Semyonov defense makes a mess of it. There are not many deadlier players in front of goal than Romelu Lukaku and when the mistake fell to him, he finished well to open the scoring. 61 goals in 93 games from the big man.
Not long after, there was a clash of heads between Russia Daler Kuzyayev and Timothy Castagne and both players had to be substituted. Castagne’s replacement was Thomas Meunier of Borussia Dortmund who despite poor club performances continues to deliver for his nation. When goalkeeper Anton Shunin spilled Thorgan Hazard’s dangerous in-swinger, the wing-back Meunier was in the box to fire home. 2-0.
Yannick Carrasco dazzled his way into the box with immaculate close control but tipped his effort over the bar. The Devil’s were controlling the game with their 3 defenders and 2 midfielders. The only hope for Russia was lofting the ball for Artem Dzyuba to win a knockdown for Aleksandr Golovin. Halftime Belgium 2-0 Russia.
With Belgium cruising, there was no need for Roberto Martinez to make any changes but his colleague Stanislav Cherchesov needed to. He responded with a switch to a 3-at-the-back formation to match the Belgians. The Russians immediately looked better in their new formation, comfortable in their own skin. On the ball and off it. However, creating clear-cut chances was still hard. Dzyuba found some space in the 58th minute but Dedryck Boyata held him up brilliantly. The Russian striker is a battler though and he kept acting as an outlet, winning long balls and headers.
Most of the second half was Russia trying to get back into the game but Belgium remained resolute at the back. Eden Hazard replaced Dries Mertens who was unusually quiet to make things more positive for Belgium. Thomas Vermaelen(!) replaced Jan Vertonghen. In the 90th minute, something sprang up inside Thomas Meunier and he went on a terrific run, turning in-field before setting Lukaku through. The number thrashed home his finish to seal the game.
Belgium took control of the group with Finland in second.
[…] number 1 ranked team in the world faced Russia in the opening game of their group. The red devils made light work of Russia without Eden Hazard […]