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Azerbaijan hit back to dent Belgium hopes

Azerbaijan 1-1 Belgium
The visitors squandered several chances and were made to pay as Rauf Aliyev equalised late on to leave Belgium's hopes in the balance.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku takes on Agil Nabiyev of Azerbaijan as the points were shared in Baku
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku takes on Agil Nabiyev of Azerbaijan as the points were shared in Baku ©Getty Images

A Rauf Aliyev equaliser four minutes from time earned Azerbaijan a share of the spoils against a Belgium side who let slip two vital points in Group A.

Despite a bright opening from the visitors, the match was still goalless at half-time and although Timmy Simons soon changed that from the penalty spot, Azerbaijan hit back in the closing stages. The result means Belgium are now a point behind second-placed Turkey, who have three games left to two for Georges Leekens's side.

Belgium started well, enjoying the majority of possession, but Azerbaijan threatened first via Vagif Javadov's opportunistic seventh-minute effort. Axel Witsel countered, but his header was easily handled by Kamran Agayev. As the game settled down, the visitors became more dominant and were soon camped in their opponents' half.

Midway through the first period, Dries Mertens had to opportunity to put Romelu Lukaku in one-on-one with Agayev, but mis-hit his pass. Belgium No1 Simon Mignolet was then called into action again, getting down well to save Rashad F. Sadygov's well-struck free-kick. However, it was his opposite number who was soon in action again as Agayev showed great reactions to parry away Witsel's header.

The breakthrough came ten minutes after the break when home captain Sadygov brought down Eden Hazard. Simons confidently converted the spot kick and Belgium stayed on the front foot as they seeked to secure the points. Toby Alderweireld fired just wide from distance with 15 minutes remaining, but as the clock wound down, Azerbaijan put Mignolet's goal under siege, earning a succession of set pieces.

Their reward came in the 86th minute when Mahir Shukurov delivered a gorgeous right-wing cross and Aliyev, completely unmarked at the far post, headed in easily. Belgium tried to respond, but Witsel and Alderweireld could not take advantage of their final openings leaving the visitors with it all to do to qualify for UEFA EURO 2012 as they sit out Tuesday's games.

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