Belgium 3 v 0 Ireland – Euro 2016 Group E

BEL 3:0 IRE – a 2nd half capitulation by the Irish handed Belgium a convincing win in an extremely one-sided affair at the Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux. A dire first half in which the De Rode Duivels struggled to breakdown a mulish Irish defence that sat deep and invited the Belgians to freely apply waves of pressure. Minutes after the break the game changed completely. Ireland will feel unlucky to have not won a penalty when a stray high boot from Toby Alderweireld caught Shane Long on the neck. As the Irishman writhed around on the floor, the Belgians broke quickly – Romelu Lukaku combined well with Manchester City FC forward Kevin De Bruyne down the right, the latter skipping past a poor challenge from Stephen Ward and squaring for Lukaku to curl a lovely finish into the bottom corner. More neat, intricate football from Belgium led to a second goal, the impressive Axel Witsel heading in a delightful ball in the box from fullback Thomas Meunier. The Irish started to look ragged, and the Belgians imperious movement and ball-use turned the match into men against boys. Eden Hazard nicked the ball past a rash diving challenge from Ciaran Clark and burst down the right once again, expertly crossing for Lukaku to pick up his second of the game. It could have been more, a lot more. Ireland will feel aggrieved by the penalty claim but for most of the game it felt like it was only a matter of time before the class of the Belgians shone through. Pressure relieved for Marc Wilmots and he will look for his side to grow into the tournament now.

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