A superb volley from Dries Mertens and two clinical finishes from Romelu Lukaku ensured England’s Group G rivals Belgium eased to a winning start at the 2018 World Cup.
After labouring in the first half, Belgium upped the intensity after the interval and ultimately ran out comfortable 3-0 winners. Mertens’ beautiful volley from just inside the area calmed Belgium’s nerves after 48 minutes, before Lukaku headed home 22 minutes later and then doubled his personal tally soon after with a dinked finish from Eden Hazard’s pass.
Romelu Lukaku in international football:
Games – 70
Goals – 38
Assists – 8
— United Xtra (@utdxtra) June 18, 2018
Belgium, ranked third in the world, finally broke Panama’s resistance when Dries Mertens steered in a spectacular 15-yard volley early in the second half. Martens is the first Belgian player to score in two different World Cup tournaments since Marc Wilmots (1998 and 2002)
Dries Mertens knew how good that goal was.
Not a bad way to break the deadlock. pic.twitter.com/kO9DguZCpO
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) June 18, 2018
Panama, 55th in the rankings, had a chance to snatch an equaliser but Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was quick off his line to save Michael Murillo’s shot with his legs.
Manchester United striker Lukaku made certain of the victory as he scored with a diving header after an exquisite pass from Kevin de Bruyne with the outside of his boot.
Romelu Lukaku’s form for Belgium:
🇧🇪 Games: 10
⚽ Goals: 15
Unstoppable. 💪 pic.twitter.com/lZlkE2Jef2
— 🇧🇪 vs 🇵🇦Football Tweet (@Football__Tweet) June 18, 2018
Lukaku then added a third with a chipped finish after a fine through ball from Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
Belgium are now unbeaten in their last 20 matches, winning 15 and drawing five, their last loss came in Sept 2016 vs. Spain.
Next up for Roberto Martinez’s Belgium are Tunisia on Saturday 23rd of June and Panama must get something more against England the following day.