Belgium 3-0 Russia: Lukaku scores twice in opening win
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Romelu Lukaku struck inside ten minutes to settle any Belgium nerves as the Red Devils eased to victory in St Petersburg.
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First-half goals from Romelu Lukaku and substitute Thomas Meunier set up a comfortable opening night for Belgium as Roberto Martínez's men proved too strong for a Russia side hampered by injuries.
Match in brief
Billed among the pre-tournament favourites, Belgium betrayed a few early nerves but a typically ruthless strike from Lukaku soon quelled them, the Inter striker pouncing on indecision caused by Dries Mertens' searching cross.
Calm in possession and clinical in and around the penalty area, Belgium kept probing and on 34 minutes they had a two-goal cushion, substitute Thomas Meunier firing in when Anton Shunin could only parry Thorgan Hazard's glorious cross.
Russia's difficulties were exacerbated by the loss of Daler Kuzyaev and Yuri Zhirkov to injuries before the break, but they rallied at the start of the second period, finding space between the lines. The Red Devils were still not unduly troubled, holding them at arm's length before Lukaku wrapped up a 3-0 win late on.
A tournament-ending injury to Timothy Castagne took away some of the gloss, though.
Star of the Match: Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
"He was consistent both offensively and defensively, just really efficient."
Jean-François Domergue, UEFA Technical Observer
Alyssa Saliou, Belgium reporter
That's how to get the tournament party started! The Red Devils have really set the tone even if the first few minutes were a little nervy. As soon as they got into the game, Belgium showed just why they're many people's favourites.
Artur Petrosyan, Russia reporter
Russia have three days to recharge their batteries and go again. There is no margin for error now for the next two games – against Finland, victors today, and Denmark.
Romelu Lukaku, Belgium forward: "Our first-half performance was great. We created chances but were a little sloppy in the second half. We made mistakes and we'll have to work on that if we want to go far in this tournament."
Stanislav Cherchesov, Russia coach: "The result seems fair. It could have been closer but for some silly mistakes from us. We've played them four times [recently] now and not beaten them."
Toby Alderweireld, Belgium defender: "There are always nerves in the first game, so it's normal that not everything is perfect. But we were in total control of this game. We were under pressure but handled it in the right way. Whenever you score three times against Russia, you can be happy."
Artem Dzyuba, Russia captain: "We started quite well and thought we could comfortably get a draw. But then a silly mistake changed it all. It was always going to be extremely difficult to get back into the game against such strong opponents."
- Meunier became the first player to score a first-half goal as a substitute at the EUROs.
- Lukaku has scored 62 goals in 94 caps for Belgium, and 20 in his last 15 competitive internationals.
- The Inter striker is Belgium's all-time leading scorer in EUROs with four goals, ahead of Jan Ceulemans and Radja Nainggolan on two.
- The margin of victory equalled Belgium's biggest EURO group stage win – they beat the Republic of Ireland by the same scoreline in 2016.
- Russia have never won after falling behind in a EURO game (D2 L10).
- Belgium have scored the opening goal in their last five EURO finals matches.
- Belgium have won six of their last seven meetings with Russia.
- Belgium have registered at least once in each of their last 31 outings.
- Russia are six matches without a win at a EURO.
Belgium: Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen (Vermaelen 77); Castagne (Meunier 27), Dendoncker, Tielemans, T Hazard; Mertens (E Hazard 72), Lukaku, Carrasco (Praet 77)
Russia: Shunin; Mário Fernandes, Semenov, Dzhikiya, Zhirkov (Karavaev 43); Ozdoev, Barinov (Diveev 46); Zobnin (Mukhin 63), Golovin, Kuzyaev (Cheryshev 30; Miranchuk 63); Dzyuba
Finland vs Russia – Wednesday 16 June, St Petersburg
Denmark vs Belgium – Thursday 17 June, Copenhagen