Hazard spares Courtois’ blushes as Belgium see off Russia
Euro 2020 qualifier – Group I - King Baudouin Stadium – Belgium 3 (Y. Tielemans 14', E. Hazard 45' pen, 88') Russia 1 (D. Cheryshev 16')
But it was Courtois’ old club team-mate Hazard who came to the goalkeeper’s rescue, scoring from the spot on the stroke of half-time after he had himself won the penalty.
Russia gave a good account of themselves in what was, on paper, their hardest game of the campaign, but struggled to create any chances as they chased the game and Hazard added a Belgian third late on to put the result beyond doubt.
A second bookable offence then saw Aleksandr Golovin sent off as last year’s World Cup hosts tasted defeat against the side who finished third in Russia nine months ago.
Courtois’ woes continue. It has not been a good season for Courtois and it took another negative turn last week when Zinedine Zidane dropped him for his first game back as Real Madrid boss. He must have been looking forward to a change of scenery but instead had another horror show. His mistake for the Russian goal was dreadful - the fact he was closed down by Artem Dzyuba, one of the slowest players on the pitch, says it all about how long he took on the ball - and he didn’t get an opportunity to redeem himself which will be frustrating. How much football Courtois plays in the coming months remains to be seen, but every time he is on the pitch you know that any goal he concedes will be heavily scrutinised.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Eden Hazard (Belgium). His quality was apparent every time he got on the ball and he did a fine job of roaming around the pitch to make sure he got plenty of it. The best player on the field, he did really well to win the penalty and finished it expertly, while all of Belgium’s best moments in the second half featured his involvement. His late second goal was the icing on the cake.
14’ - GOAL! Belgium 1-0 Russia (Tielemens). Tielemans has his first international goal! The Red Devils break quickly and move the ball from one side of the pitch to another, which opens space for Tielemans in the middle. Five yards outside the box, he has time to take a touch and then fire a low shot past the goalkeeper.
16’ - GOAL! Belgium 1-1 Russia (Cheryshev). It's a howler from Courtois! He dithers on the ball, stumbles, is dispossessed by Dzubya and the ball falls to Cheryshev, who puts it into the unguarded net.
38’ - OFF THE LINE! A corner is headed clear and Belgium break with frightening pace. Tielemans carries the ball a long way, T. Hazard cuts it back into the box and it eventually comes to Batshuayi, who sees his effort cleared off the line. Brilliant football from the home team.
45’ - GOAL! Belgium 2-1 Russia (E. Hazard pen). It's a short run-up from E. Hazard and he sends the goalkeeper the wrong way to restore Belgium's lead.
79 - OFF THE POST! The Hazard brothers link-up down the left and the younger of the two crosses for Batshuayi, who crashes a shot off the post.
88 - GOAL! Belgium 3-1 Russia (E. Hazard). Castagne crosses for Batshuayi, who gets the ball stuck under his feet but eventually works it Hazard, who tucks home for his second goal of the game.
Eden Hazard has scored 29 goals in 99 Belgium appearances.
Russia, since they started competing under that name, have not beat Belgium in six attempts.
This was the fifth time the Hazard brothers have started together for Belgium - and the fourth time they’ve been on the winning side.
The top-ranked team in the world, Belgium have lost just two of their last 33.