Friday, October 30, 2020

Iceland 1-2 Belgium: Lukaku gets Red Devils back on track and relegates hosts

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 14 Oct 2020

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Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium bounced back from a rare defeat against England on Sunday by beating Iceland 2-1 in the Nations League in Reykjavik.

The world’s top-ranked side controversially lost for the first time in almost two years at Wembley to slip from the summit in Group A2, but they returned to the top of the pile with victory on Wednesday.

In the absence of Kevin De Bruyne following his injury last time out, Lukaku was predictably the star and netted either side of a Birkir Mar Saevarsson equaliser in the first half.

With England losing at home to Denmark, that brace proved enough for the Red Devils to reclaim control of the pool, surviving a slightly nervy stretch after half-time to condemn Iceland to relegation.

Lukaku quickly came to the fore and had the visitors in front after nine minutes, seizing on Hordur Magnusson’s loose touch in the area and holding off Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson to slam a left-footed finish past Alex Runarsson.

But that lead lasted just eight minutes as Runar Mar Sigurjonsson’s superb pass in behind Yannick Carrasco allowed Saevarsson to tuck in the equaliser.

Iceland pushed in search of a second, yet Eyjolfsson’s rash lunge then saw Lukaku win a penalty for a second match running and, as against England, capitalise from 12 yards.

An entertaining first half gave way to a tense second and Belgium mustered only two attempts after the break but held on to deal Iceland a costly defeat.

What does it mean? Martinez’s men made to work

Following the England game, victory was the most important measure for Roberto Martinez’s side on Thursday. But having won each of their 12 prior meetings with Iceland – including three over the past two Nations League campaigns – Belgium might have expected a more straightforward success.

De Bruyne’s drive was clearly missed in midfield and Iceland, typically a conservative side, would have had more than their 37 per cent of possession in the second half had they not gone direct in the closing stages.

Lukaku looks the part

Defenders simply have no answer for Lukaku right now. He has now scored six goals in his past five games for Inter and Belgium and was as dominant in Iceland as he had been in the first half in England.

As well as scoring with his only two shots and creating a further chance, the striker was involved in eight duels as he kept the home defence occupied.

Carrasco caught out

Timothy Castagne has been in fine form for Leicester City this season, but he dropped to the bench for this match, meaning Carrasco lined up as Belgium’s left-sided wing-back.

Far happier in an attacking role, the Atletico Madrid man was preyed upon for Iceland’s equaliser and failed to make a single tackle, clearance or interception.

What’s next?

November brings another set of triple-headers. Belgium’s focus will be on the return game against England but they first face Switzerland in a friendly, while Iceland have a do-or-die Euro 2020 play-off with Hungary.

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