BELGIUM 2-1 ALGERIA
TUESDAY 17TH JUNE – BELO HORIZONTE
Belgium picked up the three points in the opening game in Group H, despite not being at their best. Goals from second-half substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens got them the win 2-1 win after they fell behind to a first-half Sofiane Feghouli penalty.
It was a cagey opening 10 minutes in the Group H opener, with not one clear goalscoring opportunity. Although the Algerians were underdogs, they were not fazed as they had most of possession and looked comfortable on the ball, while Belgium struggled to get frontman Romelu Lukaku into the game.
Despite finding their passing rhythm not long after the opening 10 minutes, the Belgians struggled to navigate a way through the deep Algerian rearguard.
The Algerians had the first half chance. Keeper M’Bolhi played a straight long ball, which Belgian centre-back Daniel Van Buyten struggled to deal with, allowing Soudani to latch onto it. The Dinamo Zagreb striker could only fire wide of Courtois’ left-hand post.
Axel Witsel unleashed Belgium’s first meaningful chance, but his long-range effort was punched away by Rais M’Bohli.
Against the run of play, Algeria took the lead with a penalty. Ghoulam charged down the left, before crossing. Valencia winger Sofiane Feghouli made the run into the box but was pulled back by Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen, leaving the referee with no choice other than to point to the spot.
Sofiane Feghouli stepped up and calmly put the African side in front –leaving Courtois with no chance, sending the Chelsea keeper the wrong way.
Even though they enjoyed lots of the ball and dictated the play, their second opportunity came from another Axel Witsel long-range strike. M’Bolhi got down to his left to push it behind for a corner.
It took Eden Hazard 43 minutes to spark into life. He went through two Algerians down the left and slipped a pass into Nacer Chadli, but the Tottenham man’s effort was sent straight at M’Bohli.
Axel Witsel came close not long after the restart. The Zenit midfielder got on the end of Hazard’s corner, but he could only head it over.
Algeria nearly doubled their lead, as Carl Medjani headed just wide after getting on the end of a corner from Feghouli.
The disappointing Romelu Lukaku was replaced before the hour, having failed to have one shot on goal. Lille’s Divock Origi then came on.
It was he who almost equalised; he was played clean through beyond the Algerian defence, but was smartly denied by the feet of M’Bohli.
Belgium changed their approach going with a more direct style. It worked, as they equalised with twenty minutes left to play. A Belgian cross from the left was met by substitute Marouane Fellaini, who headed it beyond M’Bohli before it went in off the underside of the crossbar—much to the relief of their coach Marc Wilmots.
The first goal gave the Belgians the confidence to get back into the game. They turned the game on its head with a counter-attack. Eden Hazard broke away then played in half-time substitute Dries Mertens, who fired his shot high beyond the reach of M’Bohli.
They almost made it three soon after, as Fellaini’s header was turned over the bar by a fine one-handed M’Bohli save.
Belgium will now face Russia in the second match, while the Algerians will look to get their first points on the board as they face South Korea.
BELGIUM: Courtois, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Kompany, Van Buyten, Witsel, Hazard, Dembélé (Fellaini 70), De Bruyne, Chadli (Mertens 46), Lukaku (Origi 58).
GOALS: Fellaini 70, Mertens 80.
BOOKINGS: Vertonghen 24.
ALGERIA: M’Bolhi, Bougherra, Ghoulam, Halliche, Feghouli, Medjani (Ghilas 84), Bentaleb, Taïder, Mostefa, Soudani (Slimani 66), Mahrez (Lacen 71).
GOALS: Feghouli 25P.
BOOKINGS: Bentaleb 34.
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