Romelu Lukaku needed two touches to change Belgium’s course for EURO 2016.
The big Everton striker picked up a cross from an electric Kevin De Bruyne and hammered a left-footed shot past Darren Randolph to awake the Red Devils, later adding a second goal in a 3-0 win Saturday in Bordeaux.
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Axel Witsel added a goal in the 61st minute, powering a header through Randolph. Thomas Meunier of Club Brugge unleashed the cross, and was one of the day’s stars.
The win moves Belgium second in the group, and grants Italy the title of Group B winner. Belgium gets Sweden in the group finale, and will go through with a draw or better. Ireland needs to beat Italy and hope for the table to break its way.
Belgium’s advantage in team speed was apparent from the get-go, as was De Bruyne’s dynamic agility during a dribble into the box that forced a low collection from Randolph.
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Once Belgium found control in the match, Ireland’s defensive set-up proved adept at closing shooting lanes quickly. When it couldn’t, like on a De Bruyne set piece before halftime, backs were on hands to clear the ball off the line.
Lukaku’s second goal was fairly simple for the big man, as Hazard found him near the penalty spot on a 3v1.