Mertens netted unreal volley before Lukaku hit 6-minute brace as Belgium unleash second-half raid to thrash Panama 3-0.

2018 World Cup

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Match Events

6′ Carrasco and Mertens almost open the scoring for Belgium

SAVES! First, a lovely, low ball by Meunier on the right is dummied well to Carrasco, whose low shot is well-held by Penedo.

Belgium almost immediately follow up with a second attempt, crafted a move from left to right that Mertens strikes high at goal, forcing Penedo to tip it behind for a corner! They’re piling on the pressure already!

37′ CHANCE! Hazard’s shot saved

SAVE! Hazard wriggles free of his marker and cannons a shot towards the near post, but Penedo stretches across really well to turn it behind and keep it out!

40′ CLOSE! Mertens’ volley wide out!

MISS! Hazard wins a free-kick on the left that finds Mertens in plenty of space on the right, but the Napoli forward’s volley is just sliced wide! What a spectacular goal that would have been!

47′ GOAL! Belgium 1-0 Panama (Mertens)

GOAL!!! WHAT A HIT BY MERTENS! It’s 1-0 to Belgium! What an outstanding goal!

They’ve struck early in the second half courtesy of a wonder-goal by Mertens! A cross towards Lukaku is only half-headed clear, and Mertens hits a sublime, dipping volley over the goalkeeper and into the far corner!

53′ CHANCE! Panama almost level the score

SAVE! Murillo gets forward well down the right-hand side and brings the ball under really well in the box, but Courtois is off his line quickly to make an outstanding block! Panama have responded well here.

69′ GOAL! Belgium 2-0 Panama (Lukaku)

GOAL!! LUKAKU MAKES IT 2-0 TO BELGIUM!

A slick move produces the second goal, with Hazard cutting inside and playing the ball to De Bruyne, who beats his man and curls in a wonderful ball with the outside of his boot for Lukaku to power home a header at the back post!

75′ GOAL! Belgium 3-0 Panama (Lukaku)

GOAL! LUKAKU!! He’s made it 3-0 with his second of the day!

Belgium break quickly and cleverly, with Hazard sliding a perfectly-weighted pass in behind for the striker, who lofted over the onrushing goalkeeper with ease!

Match Report

Dries Mertens scored a stunning volley and Romelu Lukaku was twice on target as Belgium started their Group G campaign with a 3-0 defeat of World Cup debutants Panama in Sochi.

Belgium impressed in an unbeaten qualifying campaign, becoming the first European nation to book their place at Russia 2018.

But Roberto Martinez’s side struggled to break Panama down in a flat first half at the Fisht Stadium on Monday, requiring a moment of magic from Mertens to break the deadlock in the 47th minute.

Panama almost mustered a rapid leveller but Thibaut Courtois made a smart stop to keep out a low strike from Michael Murillo, before Lukaku struck twice in six minutes to settle the contest.

Lukaku nodded in a sensational Kevin De Bruyne pass and the Manchester United striker then scored a cute chip, though Panama can take heart from a promising display ahead of games against England and Tunisia.

Martinez’s golden generation have been tipped as potential champions, but Belgium – beaten by Wales in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals – will likely need to improve on an often-underwhelming performance when they face stronger opposition.

Line-ups

Belgium XI: Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens, Toby Alderweireld, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Meunier, Dedryck Boyata, Yannick Carrasco

Subs: Vincent Kompany, Mousa Dembélé, Simon Mignolet, Marouane Fellaini, Nacer Chadli, Koen Casteels, Thorgan Hazard, Michy Batshuayi, Leander Dendoncker, Adnan Januzaj, Youri Tielemans

Panama XI: Jaime Penedo, Román Torres, Gabriel Gómez, Blas Pérez, Armando Cooper, Eric Davis, Aníbal Godoy, Edgar Bárcenas, Fidel Escobar, Michael Murillo, José Rodríguez

Subs: Luis Tejada, José Calderón, Felipe Baloy, Gabriel Torres, Adolfo Machado, Harold Cummings, A. Rodríguez, Luis Ovalle, Abdiel Arroyo, Ismael Diaz, Valentín Pimentel, R. Avila

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