Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Belgium 4 Cyprus 0: Hazard brothers on target as Vertonghen breaks record

SoccerNews in World Cup 10 Oct 2017

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Belgium marked Jan Vertonghen becoming the country’s most-capped player with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Cyprus in Brussels on Tuesday.

Roberto Martinez’s side became the first European nation to qualify for Russia 2018 in September and Eden Hazard scored twice, while younger brother Thorgan also found the net, as they completed an impressive campaign with a ninth triumph in 10 Group H outings.

Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to bag Belgium’s fourth and final goal, proving his fitness after an ankle injury ahead of Manchester United’s Premier League trip to Liverpool on Saturday.

With Cyprus rarely threatening an upset, Vertonghen enjoyed an untroubled outing on his landmark 97th appearance, taking him beyond Jan Ceulemans on the all-time list.

The former record-holder presented the Tottenham defender with a framed shirt prior to kick-off, while Vertonghen was also named honorary captain to celebrate his achievement.

It was also a special occasion for the Hazard family too, as Thorgan joined Eden in Belgium’s starting XI for the first time.

Eden grabbed the opener at the Stade Roi Baudouin, using a Cyprus defender as a shield to curl a right-footed shot beyond goalkeeper Constantinos Panayi in the 12th minute.

Yet the early breakthrough failed to trigger a first-half deluge as the visitors – who barely ventured beyond the halfway line – stood firm in defence.

Thorgan Hazard should have doubled the lead in first-half injury time, only to shoot straight at the advancing Panayi when clean through on goal.

However, he capitalised on a loose ball after the break to join his sibling on the scoresheet, tapping home from close range after Michy Batshuayi’s initial effort had been saved.

Eden Hazard doubled his personal tally with a penalty in the 63rd minute after Nacer Chadli’s low cross from the left hit a grounded Cypriot defender’s arm. The decision looked a tad harsh considering the distance between the two players, yet the Chelsea star showed no mercy by dispatching the spot kick.

Summoned from the bench, Lukaku needed just 12 minutes to break up the Hazard dominance on the scoresheet, shrugging off Giorgos Merkis with ease before rolling a right-footed shot beyond the advancing Panayi.

The striker was denied a second in the 90th minute by a dubious offside flag but, after Saturday’s dramatic 4-3 triumph in Bosnia-Herzegovina, this was a breeze for Belgium on a night to remember for Vertonghen and the Hazards.

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