Lukaku strikes twice to help Belgium beat Ireland 3-0
BORDEAUX: Romelu Lukaku scored two second-half goals to help Belgium bounce back from its opening defeat at the European Championship, with a convincing 3-0 victory over Ireland.
Belgium's victory in the Group E match in Bordeaux on Saturday owed much to its much-vaunted attack, which finally sprang to life in the second-half following a fairly lackluster display in the opening 2-0 loss to Italy.
Having wasted a series of chances in the first half, Belgium — one of the favorites to win the European Championship — started the second half strongly and it wasn't long before the team went ahead.
Lukaku struck in the 48th minute after a swift counterattack that owed much to Kevin De Bruyne's burst down the right flank. Lukaku controlled De Bruyne's square pass before driving the ball low into the bottom left corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Axel Witsel doubled the score in the 61st, when he jumped above Ireland midfielder James McCarthy to crisply head in Thomas Meunier's cross for his first international goal in nearly two years.
In an attempt to claw back the arrears, Ireland took a more attacking posture, but the team was once again caught out by a pacey Belgian counterattack. Eden Hazard raced down the right from inside his own half before squaring for Lukaku, who slotted the ball past Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph in the 70th.
Witsel, who was named man of the match, said the team knew that things would get easier once the first goal had gone in.
"What's important is the team's mentality," he said through a translator. "We didn't give them anything in the first half. At half time, we spoke a lot about passion."
Witsel heaped praise on Lukaku, saying the Everton striker should have been made man of the match instead, for his two goals.
Belgium's victory was also a welcome return to form by the Red Devils following a disappointing first match in Group E against Italy, which it lost 2-0.
That defeat raised renewed question marks over whether this supposed "golden generation" of players could deliver on the tournament stage.
"I think it was a difficult game against Italy," Lukaku said through a translator. "They're a great side and have a great coach. But today we were ready. We played well across the pitch."
Belgium now has three points from its two games at Euro 2016, while Ireland has one. Both sides still have a chance to progress to the knockout stages.
Belgium plays Sweden next while Ireland meets Italy, which has now won the group.
Belgium mark 3-0 win against Ireland
Romelu Lukaku's second-half double and a goal from Axel Witsel saw Belgium beat Ireland 3-0 in Bordeaux.
Lukaku opened the scoring in the 48th minute from a quick counterattack that owed much to Kevin De Bruyne. Lukaku struck the ball viciously past the Ireland goalkeeper from just outside the area.
Witsel doubled the score in the 61st, when he jumped above Ireland midfielder James McCarthy to head the ball home.
Lukaku's second goal came in the 70th after another swift Belgian move. Eden Hazard set up an unmarked Lukaku in the penalty area, who slotted home from close range.
The result was a fair illustration of Belgium's dominance in the match.
It was also a welcome return to form by the Red Devils following after a disappointing first match in Group E against Italy, which it lost 2-0.
Romelu Lukaku added third goal for Belgium against Ireland in the 70th minute. Two goals from Lukaku and one goal from Witsel have kept Belgium 3-0 ahead against Ireland.
Belgium's Axel Witsel scored second goal against Republic of Ireland in the 61st minute. Belgium leading 2-0 against Ireland in the second half.
GOAL; Romelu Lukaku scores for Belgium in the 48th minute. Belgium leads Ireland 1-0.
Belgium dominated the first half of its match against Ireland but the two sides were tied 0-0 at halftime in Bordeaux.
The Red Devils were wasteful in front of goal in the Group E match.
Eden Hazard missed a clear opportunity to score for Belgium in the 21st minute after Kevin De Bruyne swept in a cross from the right. The ball was destined for striker Romelu Lukaku, but it deflected off an Ireland defender and landed at the feet of the unmarked Hazard, who blasted it over the bar.
Yannick Carrasco did put the ball in the back of the net for Belgium in the 24th, but it was ruled offside.
Toby Alderweireld also went close in the 42nd minute but his header was nodded off the line by Ireland midfielder Wes Hoolahan in the 42nd.