A night of the comedy of errors as the Red Devils march on with a stomping victory over Russia

June 13, 2021

Football takes you to places where you never thought you will be able to reach and it makes you feel emotions that are not possible to experience otherwise. The entire footballing community came at a pause yesterday when Danish midfielder and Inetrnazionale player Christian Eriksen collapsed into the pitch of the Parkan Stadium in Copenhagen during their match against their Nordic neighbors Finland and had to be treated on the ground until he gained his senses and had to be rushed to the hospital where luckily after all our prayers he was declared to be doing well after sometime.

Romelu Lukaku could not contain his feelings about his club-mate after they thrashed Russia with a 3-0 victory and came out to say after match-“There were a lot of tears before the game, it was very difficult to focus for this match, also for Toby, Jan, Nacer. We all know him very well. I hope he gets well again; he has two young children, they need him and so do we as a team. I’m happy with the win but my thoughts are with Christian now.” Belgium internationals Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Naser Chadli who have all played alongside Christian Eriksen though out their club careers all felt a sudden plunge of emotions going through their minds but they did not fail to give him a little tribute with their extraordinarily brilliant performance and wrote poetries with their footwork.

The build up to the game was real worrisome but Belgium Manager Roberto Martinez clinically enough fielded Boyata in the defense alongside the experienced duo of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen with the thought that Boyata has experience and aerial capability to defend against Russia’s skipper and forward Artem Dzyuba and to Martinez’s relief Boyata proved himself and went on to play a phenomenal game. The contribution of Tielesmann and Thorgan Hazard is an underrated one and they always stay put as the unsung heroes of a victory well deserved. The Russians on the other hand played with 4-4-2 formation with Ozdoev and Barinov in the middle of the park, Golovin and Kuzyaev supporting Dzyuba upfront along with Zhirkov in the left flank and Mario Fernandes kept the right side active throughout.

The Red devils set the pace quite low and looked quite comfortable with their situation from the opening minutes of the play up till the time when Golovin took a chance and swinged in a delivery from the left. The Belgians did not take much time to react as around the 10th minute Dries Mertens arched a dangerous cross towards the right centre of the penalty area for Romelu Lukaku where the Russian defender Andrei Semenov failed to deal with the delivery and comically handed the silver platter for the beastly striker to nab it home way past Shunin towards the far corner. Lukaku welled up with emotions went towards the nearest camera and dedicated his 61st goal for his brother and teammate Christian Eriksen with the words- “Chris, Chris! I love you”. Somedays I feel we all live for and love football to witness such beautiful and heartfelt moments like these.

Romelu Lukaku with an emotional message for Eriksen after scoring the goal

The Russians did not waste a bit of an opportunity to turn things around when around the 13th minute Golovins’ set piece found Mario Fernandes’ header which eventually fell into the hands of Courtois. An unfortunate incident occurred soon after the first quarter of the game when Castagne and Kuzyaev got into an accidental collision which was promptly dealt with by Antonio Mateu Lahoz and they had to be taken off the pitch for the medical support and followed by Castagne was replaced by Thomas Meunier and Kuzyaev was subbed off by Denis Cheryshev.

The intensity of the match for the Belgians kind of took a turn south with the advent of Thomas Meunier as the super sub as he converted an excellent piece of artwork cross from the edge of the penalty box by Thorgan Hazard that Shunin only parried into the path of the defended as he gratefully fired the ball beyond the almost grounded goalkeeper and made the score line 2-0.

Thomas Meunier after the match commented-“We know Russia; it’s not the first time we’ve played them. They play long balls up to their number nine and have some good players. But we’re number one in the world rankings, and it takes quite a side to beat us.” Roberto Martinez when asked about Thomas Meuniers’ performance remarked- “I was super proud of Thomas Meunier. This group of players really understand their roles”.

Thomas Meunier’s shot for goal

Russia wanted to revert back into the game making a tactical change before half-time brining in defender Karavayev to replace Zhirkov but much to their disappointment they could not produce any kind of real threat for the Red devils. The Russia coach Cherchesov said-“We played as we planned. Our task is to prepare, and the fact that we will receive a portion of criticism is absolutely fair.  Individual things need to be done with high quality at this level. Any small blunder decides everything.” The Russians were not aware or could not have even imagined in their wildest dreams that in front of 32,000 supporters at the Krestovsky Stadium in St. Petersburg in their home soil they would have to face such a humiliating defeat against the current number one. I was quite surprised to see the coach field up a 4 back line when in two of their recent friendlies they have played with 5 back line and an overall formation of 5-2-2-1 which could have possibly kept Belgium at bay for at least an entire half of the play.

Dzyuba in action against Toby Alderweireld

The Belgians had been calm and clinical in possession and Romelu Lukaku has been the man who when woken up from his sleep roars so loud even one of the geographically largest country in the world had to bend their knees in front of his greatness. The Russians wanted to bore out the Belgians with their possessional skills but the Belgians maintained their expert positioning. Russians tried to create chances but none of it hit the target but the game went haywire for them when in the dying moments Romelu Lukaku yet again struck the final goal when Meunier advanced beyond the half-way line towards the right sends in a perceptive low pass at the end of the penalty area for Lukaku who finishes unerringly and puts the score at rest to be 3-0.

Lukaku celebrates his 2nd goal of the night

Belgium sets their record straight from now onwards as previously have only managed to win two of their five opening games at UEFA EURO finals and that so in such a splendid manner that not only the Belgians but football fans all around the world soothed their eyes with such an eclectic performance with being in the second gear for an entire night yet pulling off a huge victory of this sort.

Team News:

Belgium (3-4-2-1) Courtois; Alderweireld, Boyata, Vertonghen; Castagne, Dendoncker, Tielemans, T Hazard; Mertens, Carrasco, Lukaku.
Substitutes: Mignolet, Sels, Vermaelen, E Hazard, Meunier, Denayer, Benteke, Chadli, Batshuayi, Trossard, Doku, Praet.

Russia (possible 4-2-3-1) Shunin;Mario Fernandes, Semenov, Dzhikiya, Zhirkov; Ozdoev, Barinov; Zobnin, Golovin, Kuzyaev; Dzyuba.
Substitutes: Dyupin, Safonov, Diveev, Karavaev, Cheryshev, Sobolev, Zabolotny, Aleksei Miranchuk, Zhemaletdinov, Ionov, Evgenyev, Mukhin.

Referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain).

Star of the Match: Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku with the Star of the Match