Two goals from Marouane Fellaini and a strike from Eden Hazard helped Belgium to a thrilling 4-3 friendly win over France on Sunday.
Marc Wilmots’ men face a pivotal Euro 2016 qualifier with Wales on Friday and laid down a marker ahead of that game by beating the tournament hosts at Stade de France.
Fellaini gave Belgium the lead with a simple finish from just outside the six-yard box as they dominated proceedings in the first half.
His 42nd-minute header doubled the advantage before the victory was all but sealed in a frantic period after the second-half restart in which three goals were scored in four minutes.
Radja Nainggolan made it 3-0 with a fine long-range effort in the 50th minute, only for France’s Mathieu Valbuena to pull one back from the penalty spot.
Eden Hazard converted a penalty at the other end moments later, with his strike proving to be enough for Belgium despite late goals from Nabil Fekir and Dimitri Payet.
Fellaini opened the scoring with the first real opportunity of the match in the 17th minute. The Manchester United midfielder made no mistake when presented with the simple task of shooting beyond Hugo Lloris from point-blank range after Nainggolan’s strike had ricocheted into his path.
Moussa Sissoko dragged an effort wide at the other end following a driving run, but France rarely threatened and fell 2-0 behind when Fellaini netted his second three minutes before half-time.
The United man was allowed to sneak into the box unmarked and duly capitalised on France’s sloppy marking by powering home Toby Alderweireld’s delivery with a fine header that left Lloris with no chance.
Didier Deschamps brought on Alexandre Lacazette and Payet for Antoine Griezmann and Yohan Cabaye at the break, and Payet almost made an instant impact as he played Olivier Giroud in with a long ball, only for Thibaut Courtois to make a fine near-post save.
And Belgium quickly punished France for not taking that chance, Nainggolan unleashing a fierce drive from just outside the area that arrowed into the bottom-left corner.
The hosts took just three minutes to respond, Valbuena coolly sending Courtois the wrong way from 12 yards after Nicolas Lombaerts was adjudged to have bundled over Giroud in the penalty area.
But the French fans had barely finished celebrating when Belgium were awarded a spot-kick of their own as Laurent Koscielny clumsily felled Alex Witsel.
Chelsea forward Hazard made no mistake in slotting the ball past Lloris, and only the woodwork denied Belgium a fifth on the hour mark when substitute Romelu Lukaku cannoned an effort off the underside of the crossbar.
Fekir lashed a volley home in the 89th minute and Payet then curled an effort inside the post from the edge of the box, but Belgium hung on to ensure a result that will see them travel to Cardiff with plenty of confidence.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!