Belgium began their Euro 2020 campaign with a win after overcoming Russia by a 3-0 scoreline in their Group B opener.
After an extraordinary day for football, marred by the collapse and resuscitation of Christian Eriksen in the other Group B match between Denmark and Finland, the two teams took to the pitch as scheduled at 8pm.
One of the favourites for the tournament, Belgium got off to a strong start. They took the lead in the 10th minute via Romelu Lukaku.
On the turn, the Inter striker finished from inside the box and celebrated by sending a message to his clubmate via the camera.
“Chris, I love you.” ❤️
Romelu Lukaku’s message to Inter teammate Christian Eriksen after scoring for Belgium tonight.pic.twitter.com/pv31o5o6Rq
— TEAMtalk (@TEAMtalk) June 12, 2021
Belgium doubled their lead through Thomas Meunier in the 34th minute. The ball dropped to the full-back in the middle of the box and he slotted home with his left foot.
In the second half, Belgium had to bide their time but Lukaku got their third goal as stoppage time approached. Once again, he finished first time, on this occasion with his right foot.
Semi-finalists at the World Cup in Russia three years ago, Belgium went top of the group as a result.
There was an unsavoury start when the Belgium players were booed as they took the knee before kick-off.
Lukaku leads the charge
Lukaku was able to respond in the perfect fashion after 10 minutes when he put the number one ranked team in the world ahead.
Dries Mertens’ cross was not dealt with by Andrey Semenov. Consequently, former Everton and Manchester United striker Lukaku fired the ball in.
A nasty clash of heads between Timothy Castagne and Daler Kuzyaev resulted in both being substituted midway through the first half. It was the former’s replacement who made it 2-0.
Thorgan Hazard’s ball into the area was pushed out into a dangerous position by Russia goalkeeper Anton Shunin. Substitute Meunier slotted home from 10 yards.
It had not been a good half for Stanislav Cherchesov’s team. He was forced into another change when former Chelsea player Yuri Zhirkov limped off before the break.
Russia came out with more intent after the interval. But despite using all five of their substitutions by the 63rd minute, including taking off Kuzyaev’s replacement Denis Chershev, Thibaut Courtois remained largely untroubled in the Belgian goal.
There was time for the goalscorers to combine for a third.
Meunier played Lukaku through on goal and he drilled the ball low into the corner for his second of the night. It ensured one of the favourites started on a positive note.