World Cup: Belgium thrash debutant Panama 3-0
KATHMANDU: Romelu Lukaku's brace and Dries Mertens wonder strike propelled highly-fancied side Belgium to a comfortable 3-0 triumph over debutant Panama at Fisht Stadium in Sochi today.
Panama stubborn defence was finally breached by Mertens's sear perfection volley within minutes of the second half.
In the 69th minute, Kevin de Bruyne supplied a sublime pass with his outside of right foot, to Lukaku who glanced a header beyond the reach of goalie to double his team's tally.
Lukaku scored his brace on the 75th minute after latching onto through ball before coolly lobbying the ball over the onrushing Panedo.
Eden Hazard almost opened the scoring inside 10 minutes of the game after intercepting a calamitous backpass off Panama's skipper Torres before hitting a shot into the side netting from six yards out.
Belgium relentless pressing game almost paid dividend minutes later as Mertens drew a flying save off Panama goalie Panedo.
Ten minutes later, striker Lukaku failed to react quickly to divert the ball home after playmaker Kevin de Bruyne delightful cut back into the danger area, before Panama's captain Torres made a sliding tackle to take the ball away from Lukaku's reach.
However, the ball eluded everyone inside the six yards including goalie and passed agonisingly close from the far post.
Panama goalie Panedo denied Belgium's skipper Hazard and Lukaku within space of two minutes in the first half. Hazard made a busting run forward into Panama's D-box area before unleashing a ferocious shot which Panedo parried to safety for a corner kick.
Lukaku, who was put through to the goal by Bruyne against run-a-play, failed to beat Panedo in a one-on-one situation.
Murillo nearly equalised in the 54th minute for Panama after timing his run to perfection to a through ball before drawing a save off relatively quiet Courtois.
Thorgan Hazard was introduced in place of goalscorer Mertens for the last ten minutes in the pitch by the coach Martinez to combine with his elder brother Eden Hazard.
Panama nearly pulled one goal back after a long-range strike from the centre of the pitch rushed Courtois to track back to push the ball to safety in the dying minutes of the extra minutes of the second half.
In today's late kick-off, England will take on the northern African side Tunisia.