UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier
Scotland 0 - 4 Belgium
Monday, 9 September 2019, kick-off 7.45pm
Scorers: Lukaku (9), Vermaelen (24), Alderweireld (32), De Bruyne (82)
Scotland were left reeling as a first half Kevin de Bruyne masterclass inspired Belgium to a comfortable victory.
Despite a positive and energetic start, Steve Clarke’s men found themselves a goal down within ten minutes to a move that exemplified the quality of the world’s top ranked team.
There seemed little danger as Scotland’s free kick deep into the Red Devil’s half sought to mount a meaningful attack for the home side. But Robert Snodgrass’s delivery was headed clear, and Dries Mertens released Belgian skipper de Bruyne scampering down the left. With Scotland caught short at the back, De Bruyne drove forward before picking out Romelu Lukaku arriving unmarked in the box to score his fourth of the campaign and third in two games against the Scots. Just fourteen seconds had elapsed between Snodgrass’s touch, and Lukaku’s.
De Bruyne turned provided again as the Belgians doubled their lead in the 24th minute. Working a short corner with Thomas Meunier, the Manchester City talisman whipped in a wicked cross which Thomas Vermaelan poked high into the roof of the net.
And De Bruyne bagged his hat-trick of assists with just over half an hour gone, providing the corner delivery for Spurs defender Toby Aldeweireld whose header from 10 yards cannoned in off the underside of the crossbar.
The Scotland players could have been forgiven for asking themselves how, despite an arguably better display than in the previous game against Russia, they had got to this stage so early on, but they were simply up against world class opponents.
Into the second half and Belgium were quickly on the offensive, Napoli forward Mertens drawing a fine save from David Marshall at full stretch.
With their lead secure, Belgium allowed Scotland their share of possession, but the Scots struggled to test Thiabut Courtois in the away goal. Scott McTominay picked up a yellow card for a heavy challenge on Mertens, ruling the young midfielder out of next month’s rematch with the Russians.
Substitute Stuart Armstrong, on for Ryan Christie, looked to make an immediate impact, but his inviting cross was a shade too high for the head of Matt Phillips.
De Bruyne, quieter now but still full of menace, was searching for a goal of his own, and exchanged passes with Mertens on the edge of the Scot’s box before shooting just wide.
Perhaps inevitably, and certainly deservedly, de Bruyne did get his goal. Lukaku showed great strength to hold the ball up before rolling it across the penalty area to his captain who expertly placed the ball back across Marshall into the bottom corner.
Next up for Steve Clarke and his men is a trip to Moscow in October as the Scots seek to avenge Friday’s home defeat to Russia.
Scotland: Marshall; Robertson (capt), Mulgrew, Cooper, O'Donnell; McTominay, McLean, McGregor (Armstrong, 68); Snodgrass, Christie (McGinn, 86), Phillips (Russell, 77)
Substitutes not used: McLaughlin, MacGillivray, Forrest, McBurnie, Fraser, Bates, Devlin, Taylor
Belgium: Courtois, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Meunier (Raman, 90), Tielemans (Verschaeren, 86) Dendoncker, Chadli (Carrasco, 77); Mertens, De Bruyne (capt); Lukaku
Substitutes not used: Mignolet, Sels, Vanaken, Origi, Januzaj, Praet
Man of the match: Ryan Christie