3 goals and 3 points as Belgium ease past Panama
Belgium 3 (Martens 47’, Lukaku 69’ 75’)
By Natasha Prior
Group G favourite Belgium opened its campaign with 3-0 defeat of World Cup debutantes Panama in Sochi.
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Belgium dominated from the first whistle and it was largely the efforts of Panama’s goalkeeper, Jaime Penedo kept Belgium’s star-studded attacking line-up at bay with a series of crucial saves.
The Belgians finally broke the Central Americans’ resistance when Dries Mertens struck a first-time volley from the edge of the penalty area that arced over Penedo and into the top corner. Panama continued to counter-attack but Belgium’s dominance was beginning to show. As the Central American team grew further frustrated,
Lukaku made it 2-0 when he headed home after good lead-up play by Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
Panama’s frustration was clear to see with a series of yellow cards early in the second half.
Lukaku delivered the final blow, scoring a second in the 75th minute after being played in by Hazard that left him one-on-one with the Panama goal keeper.
After the match, Lukaku was quick to praise his team-mates.
“We know we have a lot of players that can make the difference at any time, and we were ready today.”
Panama head coach Hernán Darío Gómez said his team acquitted themselves well against superior opposition.
“I think we did a good job, and there were people who thought that we would maybe lose by seven goals and it was only 3-0.”
Belgium’s next game is against Tunisia and a win for Roberto Martínez’s side will ensure the Red Devils’ qualification for the round of 16.
Panama face an uphill battle when they take on England in their quest to create history with a first World Cup win.
Shots (on target)
Belgium: 15 (6)
Panama: 7 (2)
Belgium (3-4-2-1): 1 Courtois, 2 Alderweireld, 5 Vertonghen, 6 Witsel, 7 De Bruyne, 9 Lukaku, 10 E.Hazard, 11 Carrasco, 14 Mertens, 15 Meunier, 20 Boyata
Substitutes: 8 Fellaini, 12 Mignolet, 13 Casteels, 16 T.Hazard, 17 Tielemans, 18 Januzaj, 19 Dembele, 21 Batshuayi, 22 Chadli, 23 Dendoncker, 4 Kompany, 3 Vermaelen
Panama (4-3-3): 1 Penedo, 2 Murillo, 4 Escobar, 5 R.Torres, 6 Gomez, 7 B.Perez, 8 Barcenas, 11 Cooper, 15 Davis, 20 Godoy, 21 J.Rodriguez
Substitutes: 3 Cummings, 9 G.Torres, 10 Diaz, 12 Calderon, 13 Machado, 14 Pimentel, 16 Arroyo, 17 Ovalle, 18 Tejada, 19 Avila, 22 Rodriguez, 23 Baloy