Wesley Sonck scored the only goal as Belgium took three vital points from their EURO 2004™ Group 8 qualifier against Estonia in Tallinn.
The result was all the more impressive considering Estonia's only previous loss this year was against Poland, the Baltic side having also held Croatia to scoreless draw in their opening qualifier last month. The visitors' poise in midfield was exemplary and coach Aimé Antheunis' side remained wholly in charge to keep in touch with Bulgaria, who lead the group with nine points after defeating Andorra 2-1 earlier in the day.
The Red Devils went ahead with just two minutes on the clock when Estonian goalkeeper Mart Poom could only punch the throw-in he conceded into the path of Bart Goor, who fed Sonck to put the visitors ahead from five metres.
Estonia's best chance to equalise came seconds after the re-start when striker Sergei Terehov was set free down the left wing, but he blasted wide after closing in on a loose ball.
From there on, the first period was thoroughly dominated by the visitors, who denied Estonia a foothold with their disciplined short passing, establishing a solid platform for attacking forays. Walter Baseggio's corner forced an instinctive save from a bullet Goor header on 18 minutes and Baseggio himself fired over from the edge of the box.
After the break the script stayed the same, though Belgium will be disappointed that their domination failed to earn a second goal. Poom was forced to ground to save a low and raking strike from Goor on 57 minutes and Buffel should have capitalised in the dying stages, yet he was forced too wide to find the angle.
Estonia fashioned chances but defender Olivier De Cock cleared the danger when goalkeeper Geert De Vlieger failed to gather a stinging shot from Indrek Zelinski late on, then made amends when he parried Kristen Viikmäe's opportunist back-heel after a Zelinski centre.
Belgium will aim to take the form they showed tonight to their trip to Croatia next March, while Estonia face a stiff test against Bulgaria the following month.