UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifiers
Belgium 3-0 Scotland
Tuesday, 11 June 2019, kick-off 7.45pm (UK time)
King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels
Scorers: Lukaku 45, 56, de Bruyne 90 +1
A Romelu Lukaku brace and Kevin de Bruyne’s late strike consigned Scotland to defeat in Brussels this evening, as Belgium recorded a 3-0 win to maintain their position atop Group I.
The world’s best side proved too strong for Steve Clarke’s men over the course of the 90 minutes, despite a resilient defensive effort from the visitors.
Scotland started brightly, pressing their hosts at every opportunity whilst remaining disciplined in defence. A good block from Kenny McLean denied Romelu Lukaku an early chance, before Oli Burke dragged a snapshot wide of Thibaut Courtois’ post with eight minutes played.
The early chances were falling the way of Belgium – a Kevin de Bruyne drive was well blocked by Scott McTominay, before Youri Tielemans fired over the crossbar from 25 yards.
The first gilt-edged opportunity of the night fell to the Red Devils on 17 minutes, as Eden Hazard’s pace and footwork allowed him to slide a ball through to de Bruyne inside the penalty area. One on one with David Marshall, the Manchester City midfielder saw his effort tipped over the bar by the Scotland goalkeeper, who then held on to a drive from Axel Witsel from the resulting corner.
De Bruyne was once again the man to worry Scotland supporters on 23 minutes, as his half-volley flew just wide of Marshall’s goal.
The Scotland shot-stopper was being kept busy by Roberto Martinez’s men, denying first Witsel and then Thorgen Hazard in quick succession as the game approached the half-hour mark.
With the home side enjoying the bulk of possession, Scotland’s best attacking opportunities looked likely to come from counter-attacks, as Burke and Johnny Russell looked to use their pace to give an out-ball to the likes of McLean and McTominay.
Yet right on the stroke of half-time, the Belgian pressure finally burst the Scottish defensive dam. Eden Hazard’s clipped cross from the goal-line found Lukaku six yards out, who nodded home to give his team a 1-0 lead at the break.
The hosts were in no mood to let up at the start of the second half, with Witsel testing Marshall once more and Lukaku heading over from Thomas Meunier’s cross.
De Bruyne then resumed his personal battle with Marshall, the Scotland goalkeeper leaping to his right to stop the Belgian midfielder’s free-kick on 51 minutes.
Another de Bruyne free-kick almost led to the second Belgian goal just moments later, with neither Lukaku nor Toby Alderweireld able to get a decisive touch on the in-swinging cross.
The hosts were not to be denied their second goal for long, however. Once more it was de Bruyne who provided the catalyst, playing a one-two with Eden Hazard before rifling a shot goalwards. Whilst Marshall kept out the initial effort, he was powerless to prevent Lukaku from tucking away the rebound to double his own personal tally in addition to his side’s lead.
Lukaku now had his eyes on a hat-trick, dragging an effort just wide on 59 minutes under pressure from Scott McKenna.
The Hazard brothers were continuing to cause problems for Scotland, as Belgium went in search of a third goal in front of their home supporters.
With 15 minutes remaining, Scotland finally carved out their first half-chance of the second stanza. Good work from McTominay allowed debutant Greg Taylor to push forward, before the Kilmarnock left-back fed Burke. Whilst shepherded well by Vincent Kompany, the West Brom attacker made enough of a nuisance of himself to force the Belgian defender to clear, increasing the volume from the Tartan Army.
It was then the turn of Ryan Fraser to create something for Scotland, as the winger – on as a first-half substitute for Stuart Armstrong – forced a save from Courtois with a curling effort on 79 minutes.
Whilst time was running out for Clarke’s side, Scotland found themselves enjoying their best spell of the game. With just six minutes to play, the visitors almost set up a grandstand finish under the Brussels night sky – a quick break from a Belgium corner saw Fraser scamper upfield, before sliding a through ball into the path of a marauding McKenna. The Aberdeen centre-back was unable to poke the ball past a sprawling Courtois, however, with James Forrest unable to convert the rebound.
Instead, it was Belgium that had the final say. After an initial effort from Yannick Carrasco was blocked by Charlie Mulgrew, the ball was worked back to de Bruyne on the edge of the penalty area. The midfielder finally found a way past Marshall as the clock ticked into injury time, planting a curling effort into the bottom corner to conclude the evening in style for the home side.
Belgium: Courtois; Vertonghen, Kompany (Vermaelen 89), Alderweireld; T Hazard (Carrasco 89), Tielemans (Mertens 77), Witsel, Meunier; E Hazard (capt), Lukaku, de Bruyne.
Subs not used: Mignolet, Sels, Dendoncker, Castagne, Praet, Januzaj, Origi, Benteke, Batshuayi.
Scotland: Marshall; Taylor, Mulgrew (capt), McKenna, O’Donnell; McLean, McTominay; McGregor, Armstrong (Fraser 32) Russell (Forrest 67); Burke.
Subs not used: Bain, McLaughlin, McGinn, Brophy, Palmer, Souttar, Findlay, McNulty, Shinnie.