11th October, 2019
Romelu Lukaku celebrated his 50th international goal for Belgium as he broke the deadlock in the 9-0 mauling of San Marino in a Euro 2020 qualifications match on Thursday night.
As a result of that outcome, Belgium has become the first team to secure qualification for the Euro 2020 competition.
After scoring that memorable goal, Lukaku went on to set up Nacer Chadli for the second goal of the night before Cristian Brolli’s own goal made it 3-0.
Thereafter, Lukaku scored his second goal of the match, then Andrea Grandoni deflected in Toby Alderweireld’s shot and Youri Tielemans scored ahead of the interval, after which Roberto Martinez’s side took their foot off the gas.
The rest of Belgium’s goals came through Christian Benteke, Yari Verschaeren and Timothy Castagne and, with seven wins out of seven in Group I, Belgium are now guaranteed to finish in the top two and can already start the preparation for the European Championship.
It was however not until the 28th minute that Belgium managed to open the scoring despite their dominance, with goalkeeper Simone Benedettini having had little to do amid a flurry of off-target efforts.
Belgium however went ahead when San Marino lost the ball in their own half, Lukaku and Tielemans swapped passes, with the Inter striker rifling in a powerful finish at the near post.
The visitor’s goalkeeper was soon beaten twice again, Eden Hazard and Lukaku combining to set up Chadli for a curling 20-yard finish before Brolli unfortunately turned the ball into his own net.
The game took an expected turn as a deflected drive from Lukaku and Grandoni’s own goal from Alderweireld’s shot preceded a fine strike from Tielemans that made it 6-0 before half-time as San Marino’s early defensive resilience crumbled.
Belgium’s dominance continued as Dries Mertens hit the post on the hour mark as the tempo slowed to walking pace and Lukaku missed chances to claim the match ball before his substitution.
Benteke, who came in for Lukaku, struck with a shot from the edge of the box that deceived the luckless Benedettini before 18-year-old Verschaeren converted a penalty he won himself to score his first international goal.
The ninth goal came as Castagne smashed home a late goal for the hosts, but San Marino were at least able to avoid conceding double figures as Benedettini denied Benteke in added time.
As the situation stands right now, Roberto Martinez can start thinking ahead to Belgium’s campaign in next year’s tournament. The top-ranked team in the world, Belgium will be expected to go far.
Meanwhile, for San Marino, this game was always about retaining as much pride as possible. The last time they avoided defeat was way back in 2014, when they earned a 0-0 draw at home to Estonia.
The top Belgium goalscorer of all time, Lukaku was brought in attack to continue his fine start to the season, having impressed with Inter since leaving Manchester United.
Belgium initially found it hard to break down San Marino before Lukaku found a way through, pinching the ball back for his side and smashing in the opener.
Meanwhile, San Marino at home should have been a golden chance for Napoli forward Mertens to add to his international tally.
However, he was barely involved, hitting the woodwork with a rare effort before he made way for teenager Verschaeren midway through the second half.
Considering the way things stand right now, Martinez is likely to rotate his Belgium squad for Sunday’s trip to Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, San Marino are once again on the road as they travel to Scotland on the same day.