Belgium 3-1 Estonia: Christian Benteke on target as Roberto Martinez’ side confirm Qatar place
UEFA World Cup 2022 Qualifiers, Koning Boudewijnstadion: Belgium 3 (Benteke 11’, Carrasco 53’, T Hazard 74’), Estonia 1 (Sorga 70’)
Belgium's forward Christian Benteke (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification football match between Belgium and Estonia at the Baudoin King Stadium in Brussels, on November 13, 2021.
Christian Benteke grabbed a rare international goal to help Belgium beat Estonia – a victory that seals the Red Devils’ place at the 2022 World Cup.
The Crystal Palace forward – filling in for the injured Romelu Lukaku - was in the right place at the right time to capitalise on a goalkeeping error and give Belgium an 11th-minute lead after Matvei Igonen allowed Yannick Carrasco’s cross to squirm under his arm. It was the first time in two years the 30-year-old found the net for his country.
The Estonian goalkeeper atoned for his mistake just moments later as he spread himself to tip Kevin De Bruyne’s splendid free-kick onto the woodwork.
Despite having close to 80 per cent of possession, Belgium had to settle for just a 1-0 lead at the break after Eden Hazard fluffed his lines when released through with just the goalkeeper to beat.
It took Belgium just eight minutes to double their advantage after the restart and it was in stark contrast to their scruffy opener. Carrasco was afforded space on the edge of the penalty area and he hammered an unstoppable shot into the top corner.
Out of nowhere, however, Estonia halved the deficit with 20 minutes left to play. Thibaut Courtois could only parry Rauno Sappinen’s shot and from the rebound, Erik Sorga slotted it away.
Thorgan Hazard – who replaced his brother on the hour-mark - finally settled the game as a contest just four minutes later when he was left unmarked at the back post to head home De Bruyne’s cross.
There was still time for Alexis Saelemaekers to find the net with a stupendous effort with the outside of the boot, but it was chalked off for offside.
The victory means Belgium are five points clear of second-placed Wales with just one game in Group E left to play.
TALKING POINT - Depleted Belgium underline their strength in depth
Despite missing a host of players, including Lukaku, Youri Tielemans, Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld – Belgium were very good to watch tonight. However, while a lot of their football was scintillating, they lacked that killer touch inside the box. At times, they could be accused of trying to pass the ball into the net, but as Carrasco showed, sometimes you just need to try your luck with a shot.
Overall, however, Roberto Martinez will be delighted. Not only has he guided his side to another World Cup, he has done so in style, scoring 24 goals along the way with just five conceded – and there’s still another game remaining.
Belgium's forward Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco (C) celebrates with Belgium's forward Christian Benteke (L) after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualification football match between Belgium and Estonia at the Baudoin King Stadium in Brussels
Image credit: Getty Images
He will be particularly pleased to have got an hour from Eden Hazard, who showed glimpses of his immense quality. Martinez will also take satisfaction from Benteke’s goal and hope it kick-starts a good run of form from his trusty forward.
There is strength in depth in this Belgium squad and tonight was just a reminder of that.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Kevin De Bruyne (Belgium)
He hasn’t been at his best for Manchester City so far this season, but some of the stuff De Bruyne showed tonight was sublime. A 70-yard pass created his side’s opening goal and that was just the start of things to come.
11’ - GOAL! Belgium 1-0 Estonia (Christian Benteke): A much-needed goal for Benteke - but he won't get an easier one! De Bruyne picks out Carrasco with a beautiful diagonal ball. He controls, creates the space for a cross and delivers it. It looks a simple one for the goalkeeper Igonen, but he makes a real mess of it, allowing the ball to slip under his arm and Benteke is there to slot it into an empty net.
15’ - Woodwork! De Bruyne whips the free-kick over the wall, it looks destined for the top corner but Igonen does brilliantly to tip it onto the woodwork, making amends for his earlier mistake!
21’ - Off the post, again! Meunier delivers a pinpoint cross onto the head of Benteke. He hangs in the air for what feels like an age and when he attacks it, it looks like Belgium are going to double their advantage. However, with the goalkeeper rooted to the spot, the ball crashes off the woodwork!
24’ - Chance! De Bruyne lifts a beautiful ball over the top to feed the run of Hazard, who is through one-on-one with the goalkeeper. He almost has too much time to think about his next moves! In the end he tries to round Igonen but he does well to make himself big and swoop the ball from the Real Madrid's attacker's foot at the crucial moment. He's recovered really well since making that error.
53’ - GOAL! Belgium 2-0 Estonia (Yannick Carrasco): Stunning! Carrasco is invited to have a shot from the edge of the penalty and he duly obliges, powering an unstoppable shot into the top corner. That's his eighth international goal!
70’ - GOAL! Belgium 2-1 Estonia (Eri Sorga): Estonia are right back in this game with 20 minutes left to play! Courtois can only parry Sappinen's shot into the path of Sorga and the substitute makes no mistake with an instinctive finish! What a way to make an impact!
74’ - GOAL! Belgium 3-1 Estonia (Thorgan Hazard): That should settle it! Mertens finds De Bruyne with a clever back-heel pass and he stands up a cross to the back post. Hazard attacks it with his head and the net bulges!
82’ - Close! Vanaken drives down the left flank and his cross causes chaos inside the Estonian penalty area. It appears to hit the arm of Metz and is bailed out by his goalkeeper with Igonen preventing the own goal!
87’ - Goal ruled out! A glorious finish from Saelemaekers - scoring with the outside of the boot - but it's not going to count! Origi was in an offside position!