Romelu Lukaku reacquainted himself with scoring important goals for Roberto Martinez as Belgium got their World Cup qualifying campaign up and running with a 3-0 win in Cyprus.
Martinez’s reign got off to an inauspicious start last Thursday when Spain secured a dominant 2-0 friendly win in Brussels, where the home side and their coach were roundly booed.
Following his fall from grace at Everton, it was Martinez’s most reliable goal source from his Goodison Park tenure who came up with the goods in Nicosia on Tuesday.
Restored to the starting line-up to lead the attack ahead of Liverpool striker Divock Origi, Lukaku headed in after a quarter of an hour and Belgium rarely looked like letting their grip on the match slip thereafter.
The former Chelsea player added his second in similar fashion in the 61st minute before Yannick Carrasco completed the scoring, giving Martinez – who saw substitute Michy Batshuayi miss a late penalty – a welcome taste of victory and respite from the boo boys.
Belgium began confidently despite their chastening experience last time out and deserved the breakthrough when it arrived.
Kevin De Bruyne’s pass across the area after his free-kick was partially cleared invited a dummy from Eden Hazard and a shot from Thomas Meunier.
The right-back’s effort was deflected and Constantinos Panayi reacted superbly to tip it on to his crossbar, but the prone Cyprus goalkeeper was left helpless as Lukaku nodded in the rebound.
Christakis Christoforou’s men almost found a speedy response when Pieros Soteriou flashed a header over at the near post.
Panayi shovelled away a Hazard shot after the playmaker produced a balletic turn to leave Konstantinos Laifis on the turf.
Hazard and De Bruyne were making their class tell as Belgium exerted a control over proceedings, but Thibaut Courtois was called into action before the break when Georgios Efrem swivelled to send a shot towards the bottom corner.
Cyprus defender Dossa Junior held Courtois’ interest with a free-kick as the hour approached, with the game at large doing nothing of the sort.
That moment of Cypriot ambition roused their gifted opponents and De Bruyne was again at the heart of things, laying off a pass to Carrasco for a strike that Panayi saved only to fall victim to a lurking Lukaku once more.
The matchwinner made way to a warm reception from the travelling fans and Belgium continued to press for further goals.
Panayi continued a busy outing by blocking from Meunier and the Cyprus number one could enjoy a measure of relief as Hazard was wayward on this particular rebound, perhaps prompting the Chelsea star to cut back for Carrasco to finish nine minutes from time when De Bruyne’s drive was pushed out.
A luckless evening concluded on a pleasing note for Panayi as he sprung to his left to deny the lively Batshuayi from 12 yards after home skipper Konstantinos Charalambidis brought down Hazard.
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