Eden Hazard impressed and Michy Batshuayi scored twice as Belgium capitalised on some woeful Scotland defending to coast to a 4-0 win at Hampden Park.
A John McGinn error undid Scotland’s hard work from the opening exchanges, with Romelu Lukaku the beneficiary, before star turn Hazard added a decidedly better second with a thunderous effort.
Charlie Mulgrew and Ryan Jack were then culpable as Batshuayi celebrated a quickfire double.
Tougher challenges lie in wait but Roberto Martinez will be content with what he saw from his World Cup s
Scotland’s disciplined defensive shape had restricted Belgium to long-range attempts despite the industrious efforts of Hazard, but a lapse in concentration proved costly in the 28th minute.
Craig Gordon rolled the ball to McGinn, who was quickly robbed of possession deep in his own territory by Mousa Dembele before Hazard’s brother, Thorgan, teed up Lukaku to tap-in his 18th Belgium goal in his past 16 games.
Vincent Kompany headed onto the bar and Gordon made a stunning double save from Hazard and Lukaku as the visitors finished the half strong.
It took Hazard just 50 seconds after the break to double the lead, the Chelsea forward quickly shifting onto his left foot and lashing an unstoppable left-foot shot into the top-right corner.
Six minutes later, Mulgrew’s poor lofted pass was stolen by Dembele and he found Hazard, who picked out Batshuayi to coolly stroke home.
Batshuayi then drilled into the bottom-left corner as this time Jack was punished for dawdling on the ball by Youri Tielemans.
The Valencia striker could have added a third but a well-hit strike found the side-netting as Belgium completed a comfortable win, which was Scotland’s worst home defeat in over 45 years.
18 – Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has scored 18 goals in his last 16 appearances for the national side. Productive. pic.twitter.com/dqFlmrN51t
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 7, 2018
What it means: Belgium remain a real force
This was the first time Belgium had been in action since beating England to seal third place at the World Cup having suffered semi-final heartbreak to eventual winners France. But, without really having to get out of second gear, Martinez’s side showed that the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ still has plenty to offer as a new international cycle begins.
Pat on the back: Hazard the great entertainer
Scotland were their own worst enemy at times, but even the home fans afforded Hazard a warm reception for a typically industrious display. The Chelsea star was the heartbeat of Belgium’s attack and finished with a goal and an assist. Scotland’s defence will have breathed a sigh of relief when he was replaced in the 56th minute.
Boot up the backside: McGinn dawdling ruins Scotland plan
It was clear, and understandable, that Alex McLeish had set his side up to nullify Belgium’s attacking prowess. For much of the opening half hour that plan had worked until McGinn’s carelessness saw that tactic unravel. Messrs Mulgrew and Jack were other candidates.
Key Opta Stats:
– This was Scotland’s heaviest defeat at home since February 1973, when they lost 5-0 to England.
– Scotland have now lost three straight matches on home soil, their joint-worst such run in their history, last doing so in November 2000.
– Belgium manager Roberto Martinez has won exactly three-quarters of his games in charge of the Red Devils (21/28). Seven of those wins (33%) have been by a margin of 4+ goals.
– Eden Hazard has been directly involved in 27 goals in his last 26 matches for Belgium in all competitions (13 goals, 14 assists).
– Striker Michy Batshuayi, who scored his first brace in international football tonight, has scored eight of his 10 goals for Belgium after coming on as a substitute.
4 – This was Scotland’s heaviest defeat at home since February 1973, when they lost 5-0 to England. Battered. pic.twitter.com/NJLvlY2BIu
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 7, 2018
Belgium face a somewhat sterner task in their Nations League Opener at Iceland on Tuesday, while Scotland will lick their own wounds before facing Albania in the third tier of the competition a day earlier.
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