Lukaku finds the net twice as Bel­gium bat­tle past Switzer­land

Gulf Times Sport - - FOOTBALL -

Manch­ester United striker Romelu Lukaku struck twice as Bel­gium main­tained their strong start to the Na­tions League with a bat­tling 2-1 win over Switzer­land yes­ter­day. When Lukaku found the net with an an­gled drive on 58 min­utes, it looked like Roberto Martinez’s men would be giv­ing French World Cup win­ner Thierry Henry a win­ning send-off in his fi­nal match as Bel­gium as­sis­tant coach ahead of an im­mi­nent move to Monaco.

The World Cup semi-fi­nal­ists took their eye off the ball on 76 min­utes, and the King Bau­doin Sta­dium was stunned when Mario Gavra­novic poked the ball past Thibaut Cour­tois from close range in af­ter the Real Madrid ‘keeper had been drawn by Nico Elvedi head­ing Xher­dan Shaqiri’s floated cross back into play.

But in a busy fi­nal pe­riod that saw the hosts turn the throt­tle Lukaku had his sec­ond six min­utes from time. Bel­gium’s sec­ond win of the fledg­ling tour­na­ment keeps them fly­ing high in League A Group 2 fol­low­ing an open­ing 3-0 win in Ice­land.

Fresh from their own 6-0 win over Ice­land, Switzer­land gave Bel­gium a run for their money in a fairly bal­anced open­ing half in which the hosts mainly flat­tered to de­ceive. A Shaqiri ef­fort on two min­utes was no trou­ble for Cour­tois but Bel­gium threa­t­end a minute later when Youri Tiele­mans com­pleted a slick one-two to drive a rasp­ing low shot inches wide of Yann Som­mer’s left up­right.

Yan­nick Car­rasco’s header was off-tar­get and then Eden Haz­ard was al­lowed to cut in from the left to set up Car­rasco for a de­cent swipe at goal that inched just wide on 25 min­utes. Lukaku showed power and agility to hold off his mark­ers, pivot and com­plete a one-two with Axel Wit­sel be­fore test­ing Som­mer’s re­flexes via a de­flec­tion off Fabian Shar’s leg.

On 58 min­utes Lukaku fi­nally beat Som­mer, from the right of the area af­ter an as­sist from Paris Saint-Ger­main mid­fielder Me­u­nier. From a quickly-take Haz­ard corner, Mertens’ curl­ing drive was spot on but pushed to safety by Som­mer at the far post just af­ter the hour.

Min­utes later Arse­nal’s Granit Xhaka fired just wide of Cour­tois’s post. Barcelona de­fender Thomas Ver­meulen hob­bled off to be re­placed by Derdryck Boy­ata on 73 min­utes.

Min­utes later, the Bel­gian de­fence were nowhere when Gavra­novic poked past the stranded Cour­tois for a 76th minute lev­eller.

Swiss hopes of a draw crashed when se­ries of passes found Lukaku in space in the area and the big United striker bun­dled an awk­ward ball past the splayed Som­mer for an 85th minute win­ner.


Marko Ar­nau­tovic fired Aus­tria to a 1-0 win over North­ern Ire­land as the vis­i­tors crashed to a sec­ond suc­ces­sive de­feat in the Na­tions League. West Ham striker Ar­nau­tovic net­ted in the sec­ond half in Vienna to give Aus­tria their first win in the new com­pe­ti­tion. Suc­cess in the Na­tions League could se­cure a place at Euro 2020, but North­ern Ire­land are a long way from that tar­get, sit­ting bot­tom of a three-team group that also in­cludes Bos­nia.

They now need to win to­mor­row’s match against Bos­nia in Sara­jevo to re­main in the hunt for first place. Michael O’Neill’s side were tooth­less without Rangers striker Kyle Laf­ferty, who started the loss against Bos­nia last month but pulled out of the squad at short no­tice, claim­ing an in­jury.


Bel­gium’s Romelu Lukaku cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing against Switzer­land dur­ing the UEFA Na­tions League match in Brus­sels, Bel­gium on Fri­day.

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