Thursday, June 17, 2021

Belgium 1-0 Croatia: Lukaku secures Red Devils victory as Eden Hazard returns in final warm-up game

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 6 Jun 2021

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Romelu Lukaku was on target and Eden Hazard made a long-awaited international return as Belgium beat Croatia 1-0 in their final Euro 2020 warm-up game.

The impressive Lukaku struck in the first half at King Baudouin Stadium on Sunday to give the Red Devils a deserved victory.

Injury-blighted Hazard came off the bench late on to make his first Belgium appearance for 19 months, just six days before Roberto Martinez’s side face Russia in their first match of the European Championship.

Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia side lacked a cutting edge in Brussels a week prior to their opening game of Euro 2020 against England at Wembley.

Croatia started positively but the Red Devils started to look increasingly threatening, Nacer Chadli blazing over the crossbar from outside the penalty area.

Lukaku was proving a real handful and the striker rattled the post with a left-footed strike after turning sharply, with Yannick Carrasco heading against the crossbar following up.

Croatia were made to pay by Lukaku seven minutes before the break after some slack defending, the prolific Inter frontman drilling home with his right foot from six yards after Jason Denayer nodded the ball into his path.

Bruno Petkovic twice called Thibaut Courtois into action early in the second half as Croatia went in search of an equaliser.

Carrasco spurned a good opportunity to double the Red Devils’ lead when he sliced wide and a Lukaku header deflected off target.

Croatia boss Dalic made a whole host of changes in the second half, but Belgium saw out the victory and Real Madrid man Hazard gave them another lift when he came on with nine minutes to go.

Hazard was given a short outing and Lukaku came close to a second goal when his close-range header was superbly kept out by Dominik Livakovic.

Josip Brekalo could have snatched a stoppage-time equaliser, but his shot was well saved by Courtois as Belgium held on for the win.

What does it mean? More to come from Belgium

Belgium will start Euro 2020 on a nine-match unbeaten run after following up a 1-1 draw with Greece in midweek with a victory over the 2018 World Cup runners-up.

With the injured Kevin De Bruyne set to miss the opener against Russia and Axel Witsel also recovering from an injury, the sight of Hazard back in action for his country was a boost for Belgium fans.

There should be much more to come from the Red Devils, while Croatia will need Luka Modric – he came off in the second half here – to pull the strings on the big stage once again.

Lukaku looking sharp

Lukaku will have a huge part to play in the Red Devils’ quest to win an elusive first major tournament.

He caused Croatia all sorts of problems and showed his predatory instincts to open the scoring after hitting the woodwork. The former Manchester United striker hit the target with four of his six attempts, showed his great power and made some intelligent runs.

Tough night for Vida

Domagoj Vida had a difficult evening at the heart of Croatia’s defence. He won only one of four duels and lost possession seven times as Lukaku led the line like the top-class striker he is.

What’s next?

The wait for Euro 2020 finally ends, with Belgium bound for St Petersburg to face Russia in Group B and Croatia eyeing a repeat of their World Cup semi-final win over England three years ago.

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SoccerNews

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