Lukaku brace hands Belgium 3-0 win over Panama

Romelu Lukaku struck a timely brace after Dries Mertens' opener to power Belgium to a 3-0 victory over Panama.

Published : Jun 18, 2018 22:26 IST

Romelu Lukaku scores his first goal of the night against Panama on Monday.
Romelu Lukaku scores his first goal of the night against Panama on Monday.

Romelu Lukaku scores his first goal of the night against Panama on Monday.

Dries Mertens scored a stunning volley and Romelu Lukaku was twice on target as Belgium started its Group G campaign with a 3-0 defeat of World Cup debutant Panama in Sochi.

Belgium impressed in an unbeaten qualifying campaign, becoming the first European nation to book its place at Russia 2018.

READ: BEL vs PAN- Match highlights

But, Roberto Martinez's side struggled to break Panama down in a flat first half at the Fisht Stadium on Monday, requiring a moment of magic from Mertens to break the deadlock in the 47th minute. Panama almost mustered a rapid leveller, but Thibaut Courtois made a smart stop to keep out a low strike from Michael Murillo, before Lukaku struck twice in six minutes to settle the contest.

Lukaku nodded in a sensational Kevin De Bruyne pass and the Manchester United striker, then, scored a cute chip, though Panama can take heart from a promising display ahead of games against England and Tunisia.


Martinez's golden generation has been tipped as potential champion, but Belgium - beaten by Wales in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals - will likely need to improve on an often-underwhelming performance when it faces stronger opposition.

Panama made a nervy start to its World Cup bow, with Yannick Carrasco and Mertens forcing early saves from goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. Eden Hazard hit the side-netting after pouncing on a loose backpass from Roman Torres, Panama's captain making amends with a terrific touch on a low De Bruyne right-wing cross that ensured Lukaku could not tap in at the back post.

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Hazard fired wide in the 26th minute and the Chelsea forward was left hobbling by heavy challenges from Murillo and Torres. Panama continued to deal with Belgium relatively comfortably, Penedo saving with his legs to keep out Hazard, who hinted at pre-match that he could be interested in joining Real Madrid.


Belgium struggled to create clear openings in the first period, but within two minutes of the restart, it led thanks to an early contender for the goal of the tournament. Panama failed to clear its lines properly and when the ball fell to Mertens on the right side of the penalty area, the Napoli forward thumped a dipping volley that flew past Penedo.

De Bruyne almost swiftly doubled the lead, but narrowly missed the target with a 25-yard free-kick that curled away from Penedo's right-hand post.

When wing-back Carrasco switched off at the back, allowing Edgar Barcenas' pass to drift over his head, Courtois had to be alert to smother an effort from Murillo. That proved to be Panama's best chance of claiming a draw and Belgium doubled its lead in the 69th minute after VAR ruled Lukaku was marginally onside.

Hazard and De Bruyne combined brilliantly on the edge of the box, the latter's sublime floated cross to the back post, providing Lukaku - who hit 11 goals in qualifying - a simple headed finish. And, when Panama lost possession in its own half, Belgium sprung a clinical counter-attack with Hazard's pass perfectly timed for Lukaku to run clear and lift a fine finish over the onrushing Penedo, showing Belgium will be a World Cup threat if it hits top gear.

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