2018-06-23 10:29:05
Belgium Makes a Statement With Rout of Tunisia

10:29, June 23 161 0

Belgium routed Tunisia, 5-2, in an action-packed game in Moscow on Saturday, burnishing its credentials as a World Cup favorite.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice, joining Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal at the top of the tournament’s Golden Boot standings with four goals. Eden Hazard also had two goals for Belgium.

Belgium got on the board quickly in the 6th minute when Hazard was brought down in the box and duly converted the penalty. Lukaku scored 10 minutes later, and a rout looked to be on.

To its credit, Tunisia attacked throughout the game and was rewarded when Dylan Bronn headed in a long free kick. But any chance of a fightback ended just before halftime when Hazard laid off a touch-pass to Lukaku, who drove home his second goal.

In the second half, Belgium took advantage of a stretched-thin Tunisian defense to make it 4-1 on another Hazard goal.

With the game in hand, Belgium took out both Lukaku and Hazard. Substitute Michy Batshuayi missed several chances to pad the lead before finally scoring to make it 5-1 in the 90th minute.

The incident-filled game had time for one more twist as Tunisia got a consolation goal from Wahbi Khazri deep into injury time making the final score 5-2.

Although Belgium did not mathematically clinch a sport in the next round, it virtually did so, barring a series of very strange results. Likewise Tunisia is very nearly eliminated.

A final twist in the tale as Tunisia gets a consolation! Khazri gets the hard-earned goal and it’s 5-2.

All right Batshuayi, good for you. That’s 5-1 Belgium as a chip from Carrasco finds him unmarked, and he converts the goal this time.

Carrasco’s shot is saved by Mustapha, but he spills it. Batshuayi with a point-blank shot, and it’s off the crossbar. Not great finishing by Batshuayi in thew last few minutes.

Then, Batshuayi from eight feet away ... right to the keeper and saved! If Lukaku were still in he might have two or three more for Belgium.

Substitute striker Batshuayi is through on the keeper Mustapha. He jukes around him and has an open net! But he kicks it with his ankle and it goes toward goal at a slow enough rate that defender Meriah has enough time to clear it off the line!

Maybe it’s the rain, maybe it’s the score, maybe it’s exhaustion. But the pace of the game is finally slowing. That doesn’t mean we won’t be getting another goal though.

A bit of rain coming down on the game. It doesn’t seem to have slowed the teams down. Belgium takes out its other two-goal scorer, Eden Hazard, subbing in Michy Batshuayi. You can’t blame Belgium for looking ahead with a 4-1 lead.

Carrasco’s shot from just outside thew box goes high and wide. Meanwhile, Tunisia is still gamely attacking to try to get one back.

That’s going to be it for goal machine Romelu Lukaku. Most likely a smart precautionary move. Marouane Felliani checks in, which should give Belgium a more defensive look. Not that it needs any more goals.

Hazard gets behind the defense, finesses it past the charging keeper, and has an empty net to shoot into.

Khazri slides for a cross with no one between him and the goalkeeper. But he pops it up. Tunisia hasn’t slowed its attacking style. That could mean another goal at one end or the other.

With four goals, Romelu Lukaku is now tied with Cristiano Ronaldo as the tournament’s leading scorer. Just 25, he is already Belgium’s all-time leading scorer as well.

As Belgium came out of the tunnel, several of its players were in intense discussions with Arsenal (and Red Bulls) legend Thierry Henry. He’s an assistant coach of the team.

A wild half. Four goals, two forced substitutions. Points to Tunisia for pulling back a goal at 2-0. But its attacks left it continually open at the back.

Lukaku gets No. 2 of the game and No. 4 of the tournament! Hazard laid it off with a touch-pass, Lukaku timed his run to beat the defense, and it was between him and the keeper. 3-1 Belgium.

De Bruyne crosses to a racing Lukaku, but it’s two feet too far in front or that might have been another goal.

The stretcher is out for a second Tunisia player. Syam Ben Youssef is out, Yohan Benalouane will come in for him.

Youssef tries a speculative shot, which goes well wide. The pace is at last slowing down a little.

Keeper Mustapha handles an easy cross, then spills it! But he quickly pounces on it again.

Curling shot by Khazri from distance draws a save. Tunisia’s offensive response to falling down 2-0 has been fantastic. They still look a little shaky in defense.

Sassi of Tunisia gets the ball at the half moon, but fires wide. Action aplenty in this game so far.

Lukaku in space, and he decides to pass it back to the trailing Axel Witsel. But Witsel launches it over the bar. Belgium looks like scoring again.

Tunisia pressure leads to a Belgium break. Lukaku gets the ball open again on the run! But this time his first touch is too strong and it gets away from him.

Bronn of Tunisia is carried off on a stretcher. Possibly a knee injury. He’ll have to be subbed. Hamdi Nagguez checks in.

Alderweireld is the latest to get a shot off with no defenders in attendance. It goes wide.

Mertens gets the ball unmarked in the box and fires point blank. Keeper Mustapha is there though.

Amazing. Tunisia pulls one back. Khazri with thew long free kick and Bronn gets a head to it.

Mertens breaks, feeds Lukaku, and he slots it home. Easy-peasy. This could get ugly. That’s goal No. 3 is this World Cup for Lukaku.

Tunisian players are angry they didn’t get a penalty of their own when Khazri went down in the area. Sassi gets a yellow card for dissent. Not a good sign that Tunisia is aggrieved less than 15 minutes into the game.

A chip-in to Anice Badri as Tunisia tries to answer. Keeper Courtois gets there first.

Hazard takes the penalty. Right in the corner; the keeper didn’t move. 1-0 Belgium.

Eden Hazard goes down hard. Is it a penalty? Youssef the guilty party. It is a penalty. Disastrous start for Tunisia!

Lukaku of Belgium outraces his defender and gets top the ball first in the box. But keeper Mustapha barely beats him to it.

Belgium in yellow, Tunisia in red. The American referee Jair Marrufo will take charge of today’s game.

Goalkeeper: 1 Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea)

Defenders: 2 Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham); 20 Dedryck Boyata (Celtic); 5 Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham); 15 Thomas Meunier (Paris St Germain)

Midfielders: 11 Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang); 7 Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City); 10 Eden Hazard (Chelsea); 6 Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian)

Forwards: 9 Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United); 14 Dries Mertens (Napoli)

Goalkeeper: 1 Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al Shabab)

Defenders: 2 Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa); 11 Dylan Bronn (Gent); 12 Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly); 4 Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien)

Midfielders: 10 Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland); 9 Anice Badri (Esperance); 13 Ferjani Sassi (Al Nasr); 17 Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier)

Forwards: 7 Saif Eddine Khaoui (Marseille); 8 Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al Ettifaq)

• Belgium was one of the more impressive teams in its opener, putting Panama to the sword, 3-0.

• Dries Mertens broke a deadlock early in the second half, then Romelu Lukaku added two more goals.

• What The Times said: “Belgium became the first of the World Cup favorites to put in a truly dominating performance.”

• In 2014, Belgium was one of four teams to get 9 points out of 9 in the opening round. It lost in the quarterfinals to Argentina however.

• Tunisia lost, 2-1, to England on a late goal. Tunisia scored on a penalty by Ferjani Sassi.

• Tunisia got just 1 point in each of its last three World Cups, in 1998, 2002 and 2006. It hasn’t won since it beat Mexico in 1978.

• Top Belgian defender Vincent Kompany of Manchester City is still out with a groin injury, as is defender Thomas Vermaelen with a hamstring.

• First choice keeper Mouez Hassen of Tunisia, subbed out of the England game after 15 minutes, is out.

• Belgium is the comfortable favorite: Tunisia is 11-1 to win.