Romelu Lukaku and Thomas Meunier starred as Belgium eased past Russia to a 3-0 victory in their first UEFA Euro 2020 Group B clash on Saturday.
The game kicked off with the looming shadow of the horrible incident that had taken place with Christian Eriksen. And within ten minutes, his Inter Milan teammate, Romelu Lukaku found the back of the net to put Belgium in front before running to the cameras to dedicate the goal to the recovering Danish playmaker.
A little past the half-hour mark, the Red Devils doubled their lead as Thomas Meunier buried home from close range after a howler by goalkeeper Anton Shunin. And while Russia were able to stem the flow from that point on, there was still time for Lukaku to add a third goal late in the game to kick off the tournament in style for Roberto Martinez & co.
In a clinical display, Belgium showed why they are considered the favourites to win the UEFA Euro 2020 while Russia were meek and lackadaisical, committing mistakes at the back, offering very little in attack, barring a small phase early in the second half.
Here are our player ratings for both sets of players after a largely one-sided affair at Gazprom Arena in St. Petersburg.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
Not a lot to do for the Belgian goalkeeper with Russia hardly mustering up any attacking threat. Made one straightforward stop in the first period and one good punch to push away a cross after the break.
Toby Alderweireld: 7/10
Solid against the physical Artem Dzyuba, while also playing a part in starting attacks with his precise cross-field passes.
Dedryck Boyata: 7/10
Preferred ahead of Jason Denayer, the former Celtic defender was solid and composed for much of the game, putting in some important tackles and blocks, one of which in the second half stood out.
Jan Vertonghen: 7/10
The Belgium captain organized his defence well to ensure Russia weren’t able to get any spaces to exploit. Reliable with the ball at his feet until he had to be taken off in the second half with a knock.
Timothy Castagne: 6/10
Roberto Martinez has confirmed that Timothy Castagne has been ruled out of the rest of the Euro 2020 🇧🇪
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) June 12, 2021
Started as the right wing-back and looked good in the early stages until a nasty collision with Daler Kuzyaev saw his time on the field come to an end in the 27th minute. Roberto Martinez has now confirmed that Castagne has sustained a double fracture in his eye socket and is ruled out of the tournament.
Leander Dendoncker: 6.5/10
Getting the nod because of Axel Witsel’s absence, the Wolves midfielder did his bit well in the middle of the park, breaking up play effectively to ensure that the defence wasn’t put under pressure. There were a few iffy moments when on the ball, though, which he will need to iron out.
Youri Tielemans: 6.5/10
Not quite his best on the night but still showed positive intent as he tried to drive Belgium forward every time he got on the ball. Not everything he attempted paid off but played his part in ensuring that his team were on the front foot for the duration of the contest.
Thorgan Hazard: 7.5/10
Getting the nod as the left wing-back, the younger Hazard caused Russia plenty of problems. Sent in some teasing crosses time and again, with one such ball into the box paving the way for the second after Shunin failed to collect it cleanly.
Dries Mertens: 7/10
Not in his favoured position, but the 34-year-old veteran still showed bright moments when on the ball, playing a part in Lukaku’s first goal of the night. Less and less involved as the game wore on, with most of Belgium’s attacks coming through the left-wing.
Romelu Lukaku: 9/10
The Player in Focus in our match preview, Lukaku showed just why he is one of the most feared strikers in the game currently. Absolutely clinical when the chances came his way, making no mistakes with two precise, powerful finishes one early and another late in the game.
The goals may not be remembered after some time, but his classy message to Eriksen, “Chris, Chris, I love you” will long remain etched in the fans’ memories. Top-drawer footballer, top-class person.
"Chris, Chris, I love you" ❤️
Romelu Lukaku dedicated Belgium's victory over Russia to Inter Milan team-mate Christian Eriksen.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 13, 2021
Yannick Carrasco: 7/10
Starting in an advanced role on the left, the Atletico Madrid man looked in his elements, especially in the first half, taking on his man and beating them effortlessly. One brilliant mazy run almost led to a goal in the first period, with the shot going just over.
Thomas Meunier: 8/10
On for the injured Castagne and made the most of his chance. In the right place to capitalise on Shunin’s spill to make it 2-0 in the second half. Then set Lukaku up for his second with a peach of a through-ball.
— BVB Buzz (@BVBBuzz) June 12, 2021
Eden Hazard: 6/10
The senior Hazard came on Mertens in the 72nd minute. The minutes will serve him well as he builds up fitness for the knockouts.
Thomas Vermaelen: N/A
On for the injured Vertonghen with less than 15 minutes left.
Dennis Praet: N/A
Replaced Carrasco in the 77th minute.
Anton Shunin: 4/10
Not the best of starts in his first major tournament and was not helped by a hapless defence in front of him. Left completely exposed for the first goal, made a huge error for the second as he palmed Thorgan Hazard’s cross right into Meunier’s path and given no chance with Lukaku’s finish for the third.
— Kevin Hatchard 🎙⚽️ (@kevinhatchard) June 12, 2021
Mario Fernandes: 5/10
Given a torrid time by the duo of Thorgan Hazard and Carrasco on his side, and he just couldn’t cope. Did pose a threat when he went up for set-pieces and perhaps could have done better with a chance.
Andrey Semyonov: 4/10
Guilty for the first goal as he inexplicably allowed the ball to pass through him and into Lukaku’s feet who accepted the generous gift. Looked at sixes and sevens for most of the game.
Georgiy Dzikhiya: 5.5/10
Part of a shaky backline, although he wasn’t directly responsible for any of the goals conceded. Made a couple of important tackles to prevent Belgium from making the scoreline even more humiliating.
Yuri Zhirkov: 5/10
One of the oldest players in this edition of the Euros, Zhirkov found it difficult to deal with Belgium’s pace and intensity and was taken off with an injury in the first half.
Magomed Ozdoyev: 5/10
Not good enough from the Russian midfielder as he found it hard to stem the flow of the Belgium attacks. Overpowered easily by Dendoncker and Tielemans in the middle.
Dmitri Barinov: 5/10
Another player who struggled to offer the necessary screening to the backline. Was poor on the occasions when he had the ball at his feet, too. Subbed off at half-time with an injury.
Roman Zobnin: 5.5/10
Created little of note in the first half from the right flank but was always willing to track back and offer defensive support. Moved into midfield after the break and did well to help curtail Belgium to an extent.
Aleksandr Golovin: 6/10
Not surprised that yesterday golovin was probably russia's best player on field. Had a great season at monaco. Generally underrated pic.twitter.com/l2QaRfeacv
— Don Lippi (@Rahulvn5) June 13, 2021
Tried to make things happen whenever he could find himself in pockets of spaces but such moments did not come too often. Still looked the most likely player to create something for Russia. Far from his best though and needs to step up.
Daler Kuzyayev: 5/10
Wasn’t able to do much of note before he was substituted due to a head injury in the 27th minute.
Artem Dzyuba: 5/10
Starved of service and well-marshaled by the Belgian defence, the veteran striker wasn’t able to make any impact on the night.
Denis Cheryshev: 5/10
On for the injured Kuzyayev in the first half, the former Real Madrid midfielder wasn’t able to make any meaningful contributions. Taken off in the second period.
Vyacheslav Karavayev: 5/10
Replaced the injured Zhirkov in the first half. Made some good challenges.
Igor Diveyev: 5/10
Came on to replace Barinov at half-time. Got stuck in but could not keep up with Lukaku for the third goal.
Maksim Mukhin: 5/10
Sent on in place of Zubnin in the 63rd minute. Couldn’t alter the course of the game.
Aleksei Miranchuk: 5/10
Replaced Cheryshev after the hour mark. Didn’t see much of the ball.