European Qualifiers round-up: Belgium thrash Russia to secure top spot in Group I

Belgium secured top spot in Euro 2020 qualifying Group I and stretched their perfect record to nine wins after two goals from Eden Hazard and one by his brother Thorgan inspired them to a thumping 4-1 win in Russia on Saturday.

With one round of games remaining, Belgium have a maximum 27 points and second-placed Russia have 21 – both sides having booked their places at next year’s tournament.

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The game got off to a pacy start and Thorgan Hazard fired the visitors ahead with a superb 19th-minute goal when he side-stepped his marker and blasted an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

Eden Hazard made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute with another fine effort, volleying a low drive past Russia’s Brazilian-born goalkeeper Guilherme after striker Romelu Lukaku headed a lofted pass into his captain’s stride.

The Real Madrid forward doubled his tally shortly before half-time from a brilliant move, with midfielder Kevin De Bruyne squaring the ball unselfishly for Hazard to stroke into an empty net from 12 yards.

Only poor finishing by Lukaku and two good saves by Guilherme denied the Belgians a bigger lead in the opening hour as Russia failed to create anything of note in front of a partisan home crowd.

Ruthless Belgium struck again in the 72nd minute as Lukaku made amends for his early miss, powering the ball inside the near post from 16 yards.

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Georgi Dzhikiya finally gave the subdued home fans something to cheer about when he swept home a close-range rebound in the 79th, but it was scant consolation for a crushing defeat by last year’s World Cup semi-finalists.

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Elsewhere, Slovenia beat Latvia 1-0 thanks to a 53rd-minute own goal from Igors Tarasovs to keep their chances alive of automatic qualification from Group G.

San Marino scored their first goal of the qualification campaign but wasn’t enough to stop a 3-1 defeat at home to Kazakhstan in Group I.

⚽️ ?? Filippo Berardi’s goal is San Marino’s first in competitive internationals since Sept 2017, ending a run of 16 games without scoring

2019 is their joint best scoring year in competitive fixtures since 2007, when they scored twice

Filippo Berardi scored a consolation for the hosts in the 73rd minute after first-half goals from Baktiyor Zainutdinov, Gafurzhan Suyumbayev and Aleksey Shchetkin had secured victory.

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