REYKJAVIK (Reuters) – Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored twice and won a penalty that Eden Hazard converted as they crushed Iceland 3-0 in their Nations League A, Group 2 clash in Reykjavik on Tuesday.
Bustling forward Lukaku was bundled over by Sverrir Ingi Ingason in the 28th minute and the referee immediately pointed to the spot, with Chelsea playmaker Hazard calmly sending Hannes Halldorsson the wrong way with the resulting penalty.
Lukaku made it 2-0 to Belgium minutes later, firing a close-range shot on the rebound that was judged to have crossed the line before Birkir Saevardsson managed to clear. The Manchester United striker then added a third with a deft flick nine minutes from fulltime.
It was Belgium’s first game in the new competition and ended a run of 13 competitive matches unbeaten at home for Iceland, who were hammered 6-0 by Switzerland away in their opening Nations League game on Saturday.
Iceland manager Erik Hamren has now lost his opening two games as manager, conceding nine goals in the process, leaving the Nordic nation’s reputation for a miserly defence in tatters.
Hamren made three changes to the side that lost to the Swiss with Runar Sigurjonsson, Emil Hallfredsson and Hordur Magnusson coming in for Rurik Gislason, Gudlaugur Victor Palsson and Bjorn Sigurdarson and his side looked much more stable in the opening exchanges.
Belgium began with nine of the players who started the World Cup third-place playoff win against England in Russia, with the injured Kevin De Bruyne replaced by Dries Mertens. Yet despite missing one of their main playmakers, there was no lack of creativity in the side.
Gylfi Sigurdsson had an early shot deflected as Iceland pressed forward, but once Belgium had taken a decisive 2-0 lead, the hosts struggled to create anything resembling a decent shot on goal.
In contrast the Belgians poured forward, with Thomas Meunier hitting the foot of the post midway through the second half, and Lukaku blazing a late shot over the bar before steering the ball past Halldorsson to complete the rout.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Toby Davis)