Belgium 2 Romania 0: Red Devils bounce back after horror Euro 2024 opener with all Group E sides level on three points

KEVIN DE Bruyne finally got the reward he deserved for a night of brilliance to lead Belgium back from their Slovakia nightmare.

Skipper De Bruyne was simply everywhere for Domenico Tedesco’s side, urging them forward and refusing to countenance anything other than victory.

GettyTielemans roars with relief and joy after his breakthrough[/caption]

ReutersTielemans tumbles on the edge of the D as he nets Belgium’s opener[/caption]

GettyBelgium’s Villa star Tielemans struck after just two minutes[/caption]

AFPKevin De Bruyne bagged the second and celebrates with Amadou Onana[/caption]

And it was only fitting that De Bruyne sealed victory as the Red Devils finally added to Youri Tieleman’s second minute strike to ensure a four-way last day shoot-out for Group E.

Despite the perfect start, De Bruyne and his colleagues had been left frustrated time and again as a series of chances were spurned.

A night of frenzied entertainment also left Romelu Lukaku cursing the VAR booth in Leipzig for the THIRD time in two matches after he had slotted home from a peerless De Bruyne pass.

But with 10 minutes to go, De Bruyne was the first to react as Keon Casteels’ goal kick bounced all the way through into the Romania box, getting there just before keeper Florin Nita to poke home. 

It was the fitting end to a performance  of majesty from the City magician, justifying Tedesco’s brave selection calls.

The manager shook things up with four changes, including a return for former Spurs veteran Jan Vertonghen and with Arsenal’s Leandro Trossard benched.

It meant De Bruyne in a more advanced role, too.

And within 73 seconds of the start, that adventure paid off.

AFPRomelu Lukaku celebrates after briefly thinking he’d doubled Belgium’s lead[/caption]

AFPLukaku stylishly finishes off a pass from Kevin De Bruyne but VAR ruled out what would have been Belgium’s second goal for offside[/caption]



Tielemans was involved, crucially, at both ends, winning the ball to send Lukaku driving forward.

He fed Jeremy Doku, who took advantage of De Bruyne’s dummy run to return the favour.

Lukaku, back to goal, laid off, with Tielemans’ instant strike threading the gap between Romania’s two centre-halves and whistling past the keeper.

Relief and delight for the Red Devils and their bellowing, raucous fans.

Romania responded, only a flying fingertip save by keeper Koen Casteels denying Spurs defender Radu Dragusin an instant leveller from a fine header.

Yet Belgium just kept on coming, five and six at a time flooding forward, and Lukaku could have put the game to bed when he was again found by Doku.

Centre-back Andrei Burca simply bounced off the Chelsea man, no match for his sheer strength and it looked as if Lukaku would sweep home only for a desperate last-gasp block to deflect behind.

Nita thwarted Dodi Lukebakio’s curler after De Bruyne surged forward with trademark menace, Vertonghen shooting over from the resulting short corner routine.

This was Belgium, pressing high and hard, at their most persuasive.

Doku was a constant fizzball of energy and threat on the left, too, especially when he dovetailed with De Bruyne, requiring another smart stop by Nita as he tried to squeeze into the near post.

It was a wildly open game, both defences exposed under pressure, Romania equally willing to throw the dice.

Romania right winger Dennis Man tested Casteels twice after coming off his flank while Valentin Vihaila burst through the middle to get the yellow throng leaping but failed to keep his effort down.

From one end to the other, De Bruyne then fractionally wide of the far post from the edge of the box before bringing the keeper to his knees once more.

Doku fired into the side-netting after another De Bruyne break before Lukaku looked to have finally capitalised on his captain’s brilliance, stroking home after a perfect through ball.

Just as happened twice against Slovakia, the VAR call went against him again, Lukaku ruled offside – maybe by half a toenail – as he powered away. 

It was hard not to feel sympathy for the big man.

Had Man capitalised on a lapse by left-back Arthur Theate, instead allowing Casteels to save when he looked odds-on to score, you wonder if Belgium might have capsized from sheer despair.

But he did not, they did not, and De Bruyne then struck to take his side to the top of the table, although with everything on the line for all four teams on Wednesday.

Belgium: Casteels; Castagne, Faes, Vertonghen, Theate (Debast 77); Tielemans (Mangala 72), Onana; Lukebakio (Trossard 56), De Bruyne, Doku (Carrasco 73); Lukaku

Romania: Nita; Ratiu (Sorescu 90), Dragusin, Burca, Bancu; R Marin, M Marin (Olaru 68), Stanciu; Man, Dragus (Alibec 81), Mihaila (Hagi 68)

Who is Euro 2024’s sexiest star?

EURO 2024 has something for everyone from stunning goals, thrilling matches… and the continent’s biggest hunks, writes Jack Figg.

Several stars have lit up the group stages with their skills on the pitch – but others are also catching the eye for their looks.

But who is the sexiest?

Thankfully AI boffins have carried out an analysis on the facial attractiveness of all players at the tournament.

And it’s bad news for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions who are the fourth UGLIEST in the competition – one place below Scotland.

In fact it’s England’s group rivals Serbia who have fans swooning the most – boasting an average score of 77.90/100 with defender Strahinja Pavlovic deemed their most attractive.

While Turkey defender Mert Muldur has been ranked as the tournament’s BEST-LOOKING player.

But who is England’s sexiest star, and who makes the Euros’ hunkiest XI? Read our full story.

Belgium Euro 2024 guide

BELGIUM blend youth and experience as they look to win their first international trophy

Romelu Lukaku has seen it all, and scored 14 goals in qualifying, while Man City’s Jeremy Doku, 21, will hope to announce himself on the international stage.

MANAGER: Domenico Tedesco

Maverick Italian coach impressed at club level with Schalke 04 and RB Leipzig.

STAR MAN: Jeremy Doku

The winger provided an extra dimension to Man City as they beat Arsenal to the title and should be an ever-present in the Red Devils’ line-up at Euro 2024.

How Belgium attack

Belgium look to ensure they have control of the ball before playing in more advanced areas of the pitch.

One possession is secure, they will overload with as many as five players tasked with keeping the opposition defence occupied.

How Belgium defend

Belgium’s ageing Golden Generation will form a 4-3-3 mid-block and will not be overly aggressive in the press.

They are comfortable dropping deep and looking to force the opposition to play wide.

Read the full Belgium Euro 2024 guide here, including predicted line-ups, odds and Wags

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