The Manchester United man announced his arrival in Russia with two goals as Belgium eventually showed their class
A sluggish Belgium came to life with a sensational Dries Mertens volley and two second-half goals from Romelu Lukaku.
The Red Devils’ undeniable individual quality finally showed after a lethargic first-half when Mertens fired an unstoppable dipping strike over Jaime Penedo.
Lukaku, whose 11 goals in qualifying were more than Panama managed in total, then rounded off a superb team goal featuring some classic Kevin De Bruyne magic before latching onto an Eden Hazard through-ball to make it comfortable for Roberto Martinez’s side.
It added some much-needed gloss to a performance in which Belgium threatened to become the latest big nation to falter at this World Cup.
Their golden generation, who set a joint European record with 43 goals in qualifying, were underwhelming and created precious few chances in the first-half against the well-organised Panamanians.
But as we briefly forgot why so much is expected of Belgium, Mertens reminded us. The Napoli winger’s immaculate technique sent his 46th-minute volley looping marvellously into the far corner.
A national holiday was declared when Panama secured qualification for the tournament and they might’ve had another with a couple of chances to grab a historic goal.
Murillo suddenly found himself one-on-one with Thibaut Courtois in the 54th minute but fluffed his lines as four million Panamanians held their breath back home.
Lukaku, who barely touched the ball in the first 45, finally arrived at the Russian party by flicking in De Bruyne’s incredible outside-of-the-foot cross in the 69th minute.
And a desperate-looking afternoon suddenly turned rosy when he was found by Hazard and easily dinked the ball over the onrushing Penedo.
England’s watching eyes won’t have learnt much. Belgium are still yet to fully click but possess match-winning individual brilliance.
However if they thought Panama would roll over on Sunday, they appear to be mistaken.
Kevin De Bruyne, restricted in that deeper role, was the only player who looked like breaking a line for the Red Devils in the first-half as his outstanding quality shone through a dull Belgium.
His assist for Lukaku’s first goal is an early contender for assist of the tournament.
Moment of the match
Belgium needed something special at the start of the second-half, and boy did Mertens provide it.
It’s no wonder he grabbed 18 goals in Serie A last season. His volley was a thing of beauty.
Source : TalkSport