Eden Hazard Brace Leads Belgium to Easy Euro 2020 Qualifier Win vs. Russia

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2019

Belgium's forward Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring a goal during the Euro 2020 football qualification match between Russia and Belgium at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg on November 16, 2019. (Photo by Olga MALTSEVA / AFP) (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images)
OLGA MALTSEVA/Getty Images

Belgium sealed top spot in Group I of the qualifiers for UEFA Euro 2020 after beating second-placed Russia 4-1 at the Gazprom Arena in Saint Petersburg on Saturday.

Eden Hazard scored twice and assisted a goal for his brother Thorgan, while Romelu Lukaku added another in the second half, before Georgi Dzhikiya got one back for the thoroughly outplayed hosts, who have already qualified.

Belgium's outstanding display means Roberto Martinez can rest players for the final group game on Tuesday.

Russia did most of the early pressing but found a well-drilled Belgium back three tough to beat. Vissel Kobe veteran Thomas Vermaelen was an active presence, with the 34-year-old timing his tackles well and making more than one crucial block.

Vermaelen's efforts were aided by Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Toby Alderweireld, who was a figure of authority and able to build moves from the back. Alderweireld kept the lines of supply to Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne and Real Madrid winger Eden Hazard open, with the latter feeding his brother for the opener.

Lesser known than brother Eden, the Borussia Dortmund winger showed similar skills to cut in from the left and thunder an emphatic shot past Marinato Guilherme in the Russia goal.

Belgium continued to show more quality in the final third, and Eden Hazard was the next to go close by drawing Guilherme into a smart save at the near post.

However, it didn't take the classy No. 10 long to go one better; he soon met Lukaku's deft header down with a terrific half-volley.

Belgium's superiority was now painfully obvious, and Hazard doubled his tally five minutes before the break with an even better goal. Once again, the move relied on Lukaku's ability to hold the ball up, with his smart layoff finding Timothy Castagne, who volleyed a superb through ball into the path of De Bruyne.

The latter waited until the perfect moment to tee up Hazard for a tap-in.

Martinez subbed Leicester City schemer Youri Tielemans for Napoli forward Dries Mertens, but Belgium lost none of their flair going forward. The fourth goal duly arrived thanks to the vision of De Bruyne, who played in Lukaku, and the Inter Milan striker glided from the right to place an accurate left-footed finish into the bottom corner.

It was Lukaku's 51st goal for his country, as well as one more reminder of the enviable attacking talent at Martinez's disposal.

While he revelled in the performance of his match-winners in the final third, Martinez would have been annoyed his team couldn't preserve a clean sheet. Instead, Dzhikiya pounced 11 minutes from time to net a consolation for the hosts.

Russia's lone goal was the end of the scoring on a night when Belgium laid down a marker about their ability to be in the final reckoning when the tournament reaches its conclusion next summer.

          

What's Next?

Belgium host Cyprus on Tuesday, while Russia will be in San Marino on the same day.

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