Belgium defeated World Cup debutants, Panama 3-0 this afternoon with two goals from Romelu Lukaku, and the opener from Dries Mertens.
As one of the World Cup favourites, Belgium were expected to trounce the first timers but were made to wait eventhough they dominated all through the encounter.
Belgium had thrice the number of Panama passes midway through the first half with efforts from Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne, Yannick Carrasco and Eden Hazard, who were all denied by keeper, Jaime Penedo. Panama captain, Roman Torres, also prevented a Lukaku tap-in with a last gasp clearance as Belgium’s golden generation looked to impress.
However, Belgium are historically slow starters in the FIFA Mundial and have not scored in the first half of their last six games at the World Cup, and a spirited Panama held their resolve to keep the extend it to seven matches going into the break.
Belgium continued from where they stopped after the break and went ahead within two minutes of the restart through Mertens. The Napoli attacker volleyed in from inside the area from Torres’ poor clearance.
The Europeans’ goal sprang Central America’s debutant country to life, and ten minutes later, overlapping full back, Michael Muriel, timed his run perfectly to control a deep cross few yards from goal, but Belgium ‘keeper, Thibaut Cortouis saved his effort to deny Panama a landmark goal. Moments later, Edgar Barcenas dragged a tame shot wide from a central position.
Romelu Lukaku, however, doubled his country’s lead after some fantastic footwork from captain Eden Hazard. The Manchester United forward nodded in a low De Bruyne cross after collecting Hazard’s pass on 69 minutes for his 37th international goal. Two became three six minutes later when De Bruyne stopped a Panama onslaught and Hazard led the counter attack. The Chelsea winger collected the ball from the centre circle and waltzed to the edge of the penalty area before putting Lukaku through on goal, and the bulky 25-year old forward smartly lifted the ball over Penedo for his brace and seal Belgium’s victory.
The Red Devils, who could have added more goals but were denied by both keeper and profligate finishing, will meet Tunisia in their second game of the competition on Saturday.