Mertens, Lukaku lead Belgium to victory over Panama
Belgium have beaten Panama 3-0 in their opening World Cup game at the Fisht Stadium in Sochi.
Panama denied Belgium for 49 minutes but Dries Mertens scored a wonderful volley before Romelu Lukaku’s two strikes finished the World Cup newcomers off.
Belgium started strongly and could have been in front in the opening 10 minutes. Yannick Carrasco had the first chance of the match but his low shot was saved by Jaime Penedo and the goalkeeper was called into action again to tip over Mertens shot.
Eden Hazard nearly made the most of a poor Roman Torres backpass two minutes later but his shot from a tight angle hit the side netting.
Belgium continued to push for an opener and Romelu Lukaku went close but Torres got a crucial touch to put a cross out of reach of the Manchester United man.
Penedo did brilliantly to keep the score level going into halftime when he punched away Hazard’s strike.
It did not take long for Belgium to break the deadlock after the restart, though, with perhaps the best goal of the tournament so far. A cross was only headed clear to Mertens on the right who fired a dipping volley over Penedo into the net.
Panama had a rare foray forward and a lobbed through-ball found Michael Murillo but his shot from eight yards was blocked by Thibaut Courtois.
Lukaku scored Belgium’s second with 21 minutes remaining. Kevin De Bruyne curled an inch-perfect cross onto Lukaku’s head to finish into the right side of the net.
It was three just six minutes later when Lukaku was put through by Hazard to chip past Penedo.
England face Tunisia at 7pm this evening in Group G’s second match.