Napoli winger Dries Mertens and Everton striker Romelu Lukaku each netted twice, with inspirational captain Eden Hazard also on the scoresheet, as Belgium hammered Estonia 8-1 at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels on Sunday.
The victory sees the Red Devils retain their 100 per cent record and move two points clear at the top of World Cup Qualifying Group H, following Greece's 1-1 draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina in Piraeus.
Belgium's Dries Mertens celebrates with team mates after scoring against Estonia.
Image credit: Reuters
PSG defender Thomas Meunier gave Roberto Martinez's side the lead with a powerful header before Mertens and Hazard both fired home to make it three in 25 minutes.
In the second half Mertens added his second, then forced an own goal from Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan, before Yannick Carrasco made it 6-1.
And Lukaku, who was growing in frustration as his team-mates netted at will, then got into the act with two goals in five minutes at the end.
Belgium's Dries Mertens celebrates after scoring against Estonia
Image credit: Reuters
39-year-old Timmy Simons, who retired from international football three years ago but joined up with the squad at 1am on the morning of the game after answering Martinez's call following an injury to Christian Kabasele, won his 94th cap when he replaced Axel Witsel in the final minutes.
TALKING POINT - Has Roberto Martinez rebuilt his reputation with Belgium?
Belgium were everybody's favourite dark horses to win Euro 2016, only to suffer a chastening 3-1 defeat to Wales in the quarter-finals. Under Marc Wilmots in France this summer, the Red Devils looked disjointed, and tactically all over the shop, but many Belgian supporters felt that new manager Roberto Martinez promised little more in the way of defensive stability following his disastrous final season at Everton.
Belgium's coach Roberto Martinez reacts during the match against Estonia
Image credit: Reuters
Yet their side have now scored 21 goals in their four World Cup qualifiers so far, and the goal they conceded to Estonia was the first of the campaign. The Spaniard was without first-choice defender Toby Alderweireld and Watford's Christian Kabasele tonight, so Anderlecht midfielder Leander Dendoncker dropped into the back four against Estonia. It made little difference, as Belgium continue to set the pace as the team to watch in Europe.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dries Mertens (Belgium) The Napoli winger netted twice against Estonia, and may even claim a hat-trick if Fifa's equivalent of the “dubious goals panel” looks kindly on the fifth goal, which looped into the net off Ragnar Klavan. Equally impressive was his all-round play, and the perfectly weighted pass to set up Hazard for the third goal.
The 29-year-old, who has been directly involved in ten goals (four goals and six assists) in his last six qualifiers, seems energised by playing alongside team-mates of the quality of De Bruyne and Hazard.
Belgium: Courtois 7, Meunier 8, Ciman 7, Dendoncker 7, Vertonghen 7, Witsel 7, De Bruyne 8, Carrasco 7, Mertens 9, E Hazard 8, Lukaku 8. Subs: Simons 7, Tielemans 7, Mirallas 7.
Estonia: Aksalu 6, Teniste 7, Baranov 6, Klavan 6, Kallaste 6, Dmitrijev 6, Mets 6, Mosnikov 6, Vassiljev 6, Luts 6, Anier. 7 Subs: Kams 7, Marin 6, Ojamaa 6.
8'- GOAL! Belgium 1-0 Estonia. Meunier gets past Luts and heads in at the far post following a brilliant angled cross to the far post from Carrasco. That is a first international goal for the Paris Saint-Germain defender, but Kevin de Bruyne was the architect with a brilliant crossfield pass to set free Carrasco.
16'- GOAL! Belgium 2-0 Estonia. Mertens drills home from the edge of the box via a deflection off Klavan following a de Bruyne short free-kick. That is the eighth goal of the season for Mertens, six for his club side Napoli and two for his country.
25'- GOAL! Belgium 3-0 Estonia. Hazard lashes the ball past Aksalu following a Mertens' pass from the right from Lukaku's chestdown.
29'- GOAL! Belgium 3-1 Estonia. Henri Alier turns and shoots through the legs of Dendoncker and into the far corner of the goal, following some casual Belgium defending.
62 - GOAL! Belgium 4-1 Estonia. Carrasco sweeps home from Lukaku's cross from the right following Mertens' through ball.
65' - GOAL! Belgium 5-1 Estonia. Klavan puts through his own goal at the near post from Mertens' shot, following another threaded de Bruyne pass.
68' - GOAL! Belgium 6-1 Estonia. Mertens chips the ball over Aksalu at the far post from the loose ball after the Estonia goalkeeper blocks Lukaku's initial effort.
83 - GOAL! Belgium 7-1 Estonia. Lukaku drills home via the boot of Teniste, following another de Bruyne inspired attack.
88' - GOAL! Belgium 8-1 Estonia. Lukaku shows great strength to hold off his defender and finish past Aksalu.
Belgium are now unbeaten in 16 World Cup and European Championship home qualifiers, going back to a 1-0 defeat to Germany in 2010.
Henri Anier's goal for Estonia was the first Belgium have conceded from open play in 445 minutes of competitive football.