Belgium produced a disciplined performance to overcome a talented Greek side in their opening match in Group 2 of the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.
Soetaers seals game
Koen Daerden gave Jean-François de Sart's team the lead on 33 minutes, and despite some fine approach play from Greece throughout the second half, substitute Tom Soetaers sealed the game in the 83rd minute, making Xenofon Gitas's injury-time strike a mere consolation.
Greece had gone into the game confident after a 3-2 friendly win over Belgium two months ago, but De Sart's team showed a defensive discipline and maturity that belied their years. Jonas De Roeck and Birger Maertens were especially impressive at the back, their physical approach blunting the Greek attack.
Chatelle goes close
Thomas Chatelle almost gave Belgium the perfect start when he received the ball on the edge of the area virtually straight from the kick-off, but his shot flew over the crossbar.
Greece's runs and passing moves were catching the eye in the early period of the game, but they seemed to lack the guile to break the stubborn Belgian back line. Instead, on 33 minutes, Belgium claimed the lead. R. Charleroi SC's Gregory Dufer received the ball on the break, and crossed in to Daerden, who needed only to tap home, with Greek defender Sotirios Kyrgiakos lying injured in the box.
Greece launched several attacks, but never troubled Belgian goalkeeper Jean-Francois Gillet. After half-time they began to look more potent, the introduction of Georgios Theodoridis proving useful and he went close with a shot against Gillet's legs.
Substitute makes sure
Dufer had gone close with a chip on the hour-mark and, with Greek frustration growing, Belgium looked increasingly like to claim a second. This they did with seven minutes to go when Soetaers, who had only been on the pitch for 13 minutes, shot under Greek goalkeeper Stefanos Kotsolis after a through-ball from Stefan Teelen.
De Sart "satisfied"
Greece did halve the deficit in injury time when Gitas turned in a Theodoridis shot, but it was too late to save the game by that point. The cutting edge was needed sooner. After the game a satisfied De Sart said: "I'm very satisfied, it's really nice to kick off the tournament with a win. I chose to rest Soetars because it's a long tournament but he showed his instinct for goal immediately after coming on."
'Their win was deserved'
Greek coach Andrea Michalopoulos conceded his side failed to show their true form. "We were very nervous and failed to produce our best form," he said. "The Belgians were clearly better from the first minute and their win was deserved. We were surprised by the speed of their counterattacks and never got into the match after going behind."