Thomas Meunier and Romelu Lukaku scored hat-tricks and Eden Hazard marked his return to competitive action with a goal as Belgium cemented their place at the top of Group H with a 9-0 demolition of Gibraltar in World Cup qualifying.
Hazard featured in a competitive game for the first time since breaking his ankle while on international duty in June and played 77 minutes as the Red Devils outclassed their part-time opposition from start to finish.
Meunier also recorded three assists while Lukaku proved a typically menacing presence, taking full advantage of the gulf in class to help Belgium maintain their unbeaten record in qualifying.
Axel Witsel, who earlier lit up the Stade Maurice Dufrasne with a stunning bicycle-kick, was sent off for going in high and late on Jamie Bosio shortly before the break, but the damage was well and truly done by then with Roberto Martinez’s side leading 5-0.
Hazard got in the action on the stroke of half-time before Meunier and Lukaku completed their respective trebles after the restart.
Witsel’s dismissal means he will miss Sunday’s important trip to Greece, and Gibraltar lost a man of their own when Erin Barnett was dismissed having brought down Kevin De Bruyne to give away a late penalty from which Lukaku slotted home his third.
#TousEnsemble #BELGIB #RoadtoRussia pic.twitter.com/OtS47uR5b1
— BelgianRedDevils (@BelRedDevils) August 31, 2017
Gibraltar goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim started impressively, twice denying Lukaku early, but it was his error in the the 15th minute that opened the floodgates.
The England-born shot-stopper let Dries Mertens’ tame cross slip between his legs and break the deadlock and right-back Meunier quickly compounded the mistake by tucking Mertens’ clever cut-back inside the near post to double the lead.
Lukaku made it three goals in the space of six minutes when Meunier put a right-wing cross on a platter for the Manchester United man.
Witsel fluffed a clear chance in the 23rd minute, but the midfielder produced the highlight of the half moments later. Mertens dinked a clever cross towards the far post and Witsel lashed home spectacularly to make it 4-0.
Meunier teed up Lukaku for the second time in the 38th minute and, despite Witsel capping a mixed half with a straight red card, the Red Devils still pressed forward and added a sixth goal through a Hazard tap-in on the stroke of half-time, the Chelsea star converting Menuier’s third assist of the half.
Anything @Cristiano can do…
Full-back @ThomMills (along with four assists!) and @RomeluLukaku9 both net 3⃣ each for
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