Belgium continued their unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying as goals from Dries Mertens and Nacer Chadli secured a comfortable 2-0 win over 10-man Estonia to enhance their control of Group H.
Roberto Martinez’s side dominated the entire match and, although they produced a somewhat flat performance in which they failed to make the most of their chances, never looked like slipping up as they opened up a four-point advantage over Greece, who drew 0-0 at Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Estonia were 3-0 down by the 25th minute when the two sides met back in November and they were successful in producing an improvement as they frustrated Belgium for the first 30 minutes.
But the Red Devils’ patience paid off just after the half-hour mark, as Mertens – who scored twice in last year’s 8-1 win – tapped in from close range and then a harsh straight red card for Artjom Dmitrijev on the stroke of half-time left Estonia with a mountain to climb.
As a result, the second period only proved to be even more one-sided, with Belgium seeing a flurry of chances kept out by Estonia goalkeeper Mihkel Aksalu.
The impressive Aksalu was eventually beaten for a second time, however, as Chadli wrapped things up late on to ensure Belgium cruised on to 16 points from six matches.
Belgium unsurprisingly took the early initiative as they dictated proceedings and kept Estonia camped around their own penalty area.
The hosts’ compact backline meant that Belgium were a little restricted in attack, however, with Mousa Dembele’s long-range effort in the 11th minute indicative of some early frustration as they failed to carve their way through.
Estonia almost crafted a good chance of their own 12 minutes later, but Sergei Zenjov failed to connect with Siim Luts’ teasing left-wing delivery.
Belgium were not kept at bay much longer, though. Aksalu spilled Kevin De Bruyne’s sweeping cross from the right and Mertens was on hand for the simplest of finishes with just over half an hour played.
That feeling when you celebrate scoring ! :facepunch::soccer: @dries_mertens14 #estbel #roadtorussia pic.twitter.com/WJEQQRG9Qw
— BelgianRedDevils (@BelRedDevils) June 9, 2017
Romelu Lukaku should have doubled the lead just before the break, only for the reported Chelsea target to shoot straight at Aksalu when one-on-one.
Estonia’s slim hopes of a revival were then effectively ended a few moments later by Dmitrijev’s sending off for a strong, but seemingly controlled, tackle on Marouane Fellaini.
Belgium’s superiority remained constant in the second half and Aksalu was forced into action just after the restart, atoning for his previous error with a fingertip save to deny Jan Vertonghen.
He made another smart stop shortly after, stopping Chadli’s miscued cross creeping inside the left-hand post.
The Belgium onslaught showed no signs of letting up, but Aksalu was thwarting them single-handedly, with the 32-year-old told making fine stops to prevent Fellaini, Yannick Carrasco and De Bruyne from all extending the visitors’ lead.
Vincent Kompany also went close to a rare goal as he met a corner with a volley, but again Aksalu was in the right place to keep the Manchester City star out.
Aksalu could not deny Chadli, however, as the winger slotted a cool finish beyond him after being released into the right side of the area with four minutes to play.
Konstantin Vassiljev almost gave the home crowd something to cheer about when his 30-yard screamer looked destined for the top-left corner, but Thibaut Courtois was rescued by the crossbar to keep his clean sheet intact.
Full Disclaimer: This article is aggregated from a 3rd party website. We do not own this content. We just syndicate it. Please help support original source/author. Click to visit their site. Thanks