Belgium cruised to a 3-0 home win over a lacklustre Scotland last night to maintain their 100% Euro 2020 qualification record.
Romelu Lukaku scored twice for the Red Devils either side of half-time, while Kevin De Bruyne compounded the Tartan Army’s misery in injury time with a trademark quality finish from just outside the box.
Scotland will be disappointed with their performance on a night that saw them rarely threaten Belgium’s goal. The Red Devils were also hardly at their best, but evidently didn’t need to be as the quality and speed of their play proved far too much for the limited, defensive-minded Scots.
“We knew we were going to have to deal with Scotland defending well,” said Belgium’s coach, Roberto Martinez, after the game. “We knew they would try to close spaces and prevent us from playing our football. So we had to keep our focus, and rely on players – like Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne – who know how to open up these kinds of teams.”
He added: “I was very pleased that Romelu got the goal just before half time. After that, it was a very different game. In the end, we had many opportunities to score even more.”
Scotland’s coach, Steve Clarke, tried to remain positive after the defeat. “It was obviously a difficult game for us, but we were competitive against the best team in the world, so there a lot of positives,” he said. “I thought our tactical discipline and attitude were excellent. But obviously we are professionals and we don’t like to lose games.”
Lukaku opened the scoring after the quick-footed Thorgan Hazard was tackled by Manchester United’s Scott McTominay near the six-yard box. With the ball running out of play, McTominay inexplicably switched off, allowing Thorgan’s brother, Eden, the time to stop the ball on the line, look up, and lift a delicate chip over to Lukaku for a simple headed finish.
Lukaku added a second not long after the break, smashing home from close range after Scotland’s goalkeeper David Marshall parried Kevin De Bruyne’s low drive right into the path of the Manchester United striker.
Scotland briefly rallied in the latter stages of the game, with Thibaut Courtois saving smartly from Ryan Fraser’s curled effort, while a frantic goal-mouth scramble involving James Forrest, Oliver Burke, and Scott McKenna ultimately led to nothing after some excellent defending by Thorgan Hazard.
Belgium could easily have had several more goals on the night, with Lukaku especially guilty of missing a host of chances, and De Bruyne also unlucky not to have scored much earlier than he did.
Arguably, the match statistics speak for themselves: Belgium had 25 shots to Scotland’s 4; had 72% possession to Scotland’s 28%; and had 14 corners to Scotland’s zero.
Moreover, Scotland’s ostensible game-plan of defending deep and punting the ball high and long to their lone striker, Oliver Burke, seemed particularly ill-advised given the height and strength of Belgium’s outstanding defensive trio of Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, and Vincent Kompany.
Scotland’s Scott McTominay capped his poor performance with a vicious stamp on Thorgan Hazard, for which he was extremely fortunate to escape with only a yellow card.