Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne scored one goal and set up another as the team profited from a strong first-half showing to beat Wales 2-1 in its Nations League A Group 4 clash at the King Baudouin Stadium on Thursday.
Wales was fortunate not to be more than 2-0 down at the break after goals by De Bruyne and Michy Batshuayi and several spurned chances, but the visitors halved the deficit early in the second period when Kieffer Moore headed in from close range.
Second-placed Belgium have 10 points from five matches and go to Amsterdam on Sunday. They must win by three goals to overtake the Netherlands, who has 13 points at the top of the group, and qualify for the Nations League semifinals next year.
The home side gave 65 minutes to playmaker Eden Hazard as he seeks to prove his form and fitness ahead of the World Cup in Qatar starting in November.
Gareth Bale came off the bench for Wales in the final half-hour, a positive sign for manager Rob Page ahead of their home game against Poland on Sunday as they bid to avoid relegation from the pool. They are currently bottom with one point.
Belgium was excellent in the opening period with slick interplay centred around the mercurial talent of De Bruyne.
When he netted after 10 minutes it stretched to 49 games Belgium’s incredible run of scoring, having last been kept out by France in the 2018 World Cup semi-final in St Petersburg.
Batshuayi teed up De Bruyne on the edge of the box and the his side-footed finish beat Wayne Hennessey in the Wales goal.
De Bruyne then struck the post with a shot from a similar position before he turned provider as his whipped cross laid on a tap-in for Batshuayi.
To its credit Wales came out a more organised side in the second half and, as Belgium took its foot off the pedal, seized the moment.
They pulled a goal back five minutes after the break when the lively Brennan Johnson’s trickery on the right wing produced a cross for Moore to head past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The host was later awarded a penalty for a challenge by Joe Morrell on De Bruyne, though a Video Assistant Referee check showed the defender clearly got a sizeable touch on the ball and the decision was overturned.
Belgium held on for the win but not before coach Roberto Martinez was red carded for holding the ball on the touchline deep into added time.
The home side handed a debut from the start to 18-year-old centre-back Zeno Debast.