Romelu Lukaku scores twice as Belgium beats Estonia 5-2 in World Cup qualifier

Romelu Lukaku took his international record to 66 goals in his 99th appearance as Belgium overcame an early scare to crush Estonia.

Romelu Lukaku (2nd,L) celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification Group E football match between Estonia and Belgium.   -  AFP

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium overcame an early scare to crush Estonia 5-2 away on Thursday and solidify its position at the top of World Cup qualifying Group E.

Lukaku took his international record to 66 goals in his 99th appearance after Belgium was shocked when Estonia captain Matthias Kait stole the ball in midfield and thundered home a powerful shot to put the host ahead in the second minute.

But FIFA’s top-ranked team fought back to reach 10 points ahead of the second-placed Czech Republic on seven points, also from four games. Estonia is bottom without a win from three games.

Hans Vanaken, Axel Witsel, and substitute Thomas Foket also scored for Belgium, while Erik Sorga got a consolation for the home side.

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"With the first goal, all credit should go to Estonia,” said Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. “It was a great shot. That happens in football. But I'm pleased that we remained calm and the five goals we scored ourselves give satisfaction."

Estonia’s dream start lasted 20 minutes before Vanaken equalised with a close-range header from captain Eden Hazard’s perfect chip.

The 28-year-old Lukaku put Belgium ahead just before the half-hour mark, using his strength to work a rebound off the defence onto his left foot and into the corner of the net.

 

He had his back to goal and was given time and space to turn and shoot as he made it 3-1 to Belgium in the 52nd minute.

The goal allowed the visitor to settle into a comfortable rhythm after Estonia had proved more than a handful in the first half and might have had more goals had it been more clinical.

Witsel converted a close-range tap-in after 65 minutes when Yannick Carrasco had dribbled his way into the penalty area. The latter was the provider again as Foket scored his first international goal 10 minutes after coming on.

Estonia got a consolation seven minutes from time as Michael Lilander teased his way into the penalty area to provide Sorga with an easy finish to bring the loudest cheer of the night.

Belgium faces the Czech Republic in Brussels on Sunday, while Estonia’s next qualifier is away to Wales on Wednesday.

- USA held by El Salvador -

The United States was held to a goalless draw by El Salvador on Thursday. The US will next take on Canada on Sunday, which drew 1-1 Honduras.

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