Eden Hazard Brace Leads Belgium to Easy Win vs. Russia

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2019

Russia's Aleksandr Golovin, right, challenges Belgium's Eden Hazard, left, during the Euro 2020 Group I qualifying match between Belgium and Russia at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels on Thursday March 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Associated Press

Belgium began their 2020 UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign in style on Thursday, defeating Russia 3-1 in Group I.

The home side took minimal time to establish the lead as Youri Tielemans scored the opener after 14 minutes.

However, a mistake by Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with the ball at his feet allowed Denis Cheryshev to smash home the equaliser just two minutes later.

The Red Devils turned the screw and made it 2-1 on the stroke of half-time. Eden Hazard calmly despatched a penalty after Yuri Zhirkov had fouled the Chelsea superstar.

It was left to Hazard to put the result to bed, slotting home from close range to secure the three points in the final moments.

Aleksandr Golovin saw red for Russia in the last minute for a second yellow to compound the away team's misery.


Tielemans Will Develop Into A European Star

Leicester City knew what they were doing when they tempted Tielemans to join them on loan from Monaco in the last transfer window.

The youngster had fallen out of favour at the Ligue 1 club, but his quality was never in doubt with a precious opportunity to play in the Premier League.

Belgium's forward Eden Hazard (L) and Belgium's midfielder Youri Tielemans (R) run after the ball during the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Belgium and Russia at the Roi Baudouin stadium, in Brussels on March 21, 2019. (Photo by DIRK WAEM
DIRK WAEM/Getty Images

The Foxes have begun to see the best from the 21-year-old in recent weeks. Jamie Vardy is back leading the line, and Tielemans has enjoyed breaking from midfield.

The player continued his improving displays as he scored his first goal for Belgium against Russia.

Tielemans is the consummate modern central midfielder. He is comfortable on the ball in both defensive and attacking situations.

His goal was the finish of a player on the brink of something special, appearing more experienced than others of his age.

The tournament's official Twitter account hailed the opening scorer:


🇧🇪 Youri Tielemans celebrates scoring his first goal for Belgium 👏 #EURO2020 https://t.co/GmAAhtOB2S

Leicester do not hold an option to sign the young Belgian in the summer, leaving his future up in the air.

However, if his current performances continue to bear fruit, he will shortly be one of the hottest young players in Europe.

A return to Monaco cannot be discounted, but he appears ready to shine whether he returns to France or signs for a new side.


Real Madrid Move Has Ruined Courtois' Confidence

Moving to Los Blancos should be every player's dream, but Courtois' switch from London to Madrid seems to have eaten away at his form.

Real have suffered a torrid time since the goalkeeper joined them last summer, and the No. 1 does not appear the same player who was so impressive for Chelsea.

Courtois' woe continued on Thursday as he made a horrendous error to gift Russia a surprise equaliser.

The stopper wanted to dribble the ball to the edge of his box with his left foot but lost balance when he was forced to use his right.

Courtois lost the ball to Cheryshev and the winger skipped past the 'keeper to fire home, per Sky Sports:

Sky Sports Football @SkyFootball

Thibaut Courtois: "Siri, sum up my season in one moment" Siri: "Sure, no problem" 📺 Follow all of tonight's #Euro2020 games here: https://t.co/8OJrY7tNlg https://t.co/WqTqE9H741

It was a hugely embarrassing moment. The incident was uncharacteristic for a player who once managed the extreme pressures and speed of the Premier League.

Real will rebuild in the summer after the return of Zinedine Zidane as coach, and Courtois will have to prove he is still the right choice as the last line of defence at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.


What's Next

Both nations are back in Euro 2020 qualifying action on Sunday. Belgium travel to Cyprus, with Russia making the trip to Kazakhstan.