Belgium played spoilsport on Panama's World Cup debut. The Red Devils defeated the debutantes 3-0 in their opening fixture of World Cup 2018. It was an easy for the European side, thanks to a double from Romelu Lukaku and one by Dries Mertens.
Roberto Martinez led Belgium were the dominant team in the first half, but failed to take the lead, much due to the presence of experienced Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo. The veteran made some really good saves to keep his side in the tie going into the half.
But all his hard work was undone in the 47th minute. Panama failed to clear the ball in their box, and it fell to Mertens. The Napoli player took it on the volley, and scored an absolute stunner.
The floodgates opened soon, with Panama coming out of their shell in search of an equalizer. And the beneficiary of this was Romelu Lukaku. The striker had only seven touches of the ball in the first half, and was anonymous for most periods in the second half.
But in the 69th minute, he showed his attacking prowess, heading into the net after a brilliant ball in the box by Kevin de Bruyne. And six minutes later, the Manchester United striker got his second of the night, and his team's third through a neat finish from inside the area.
Here are the three talking points from the fixture.
1. Panama show fight in defense: The fact that they conceded 3, and failed to score means nothing. This was the debut match for Panama in World Cup, and that too against a team which has the likes of de Bruyne and Eden Hazard. Yet, Panama fought, and did not give up.
In the first half, they showed a lot of fight in their defending, and did not allow the star-studded Belgium to grab a goal. Even in the second half, they defended well, but were undone by moments of brilliance.
A big takeaway for them from this fixture is the performance of their defense.
2. Lukaku silences critics: Romelu Lukaku had a perfect answer to those who criticize him for not showing up for the big matches. In the first half, the big Belgian was absolutely anonymous, having a mere seven touches of the ball.
He proved his lethality in front of goal, scoring from his very first effort. It was a 'fox in the box' goal by the striker. His second goal was a proper striker's goal, as he used his pace to get beyond the defense, and chipped the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper.
Belgium have way too much of creativity in their midfield. So the only thing they want from their striker is just goals. And Lukau provided that today.
3. Belgium shouldn't be too excited: Yes, they score three goals, without conceding, and never getting genuinely troubled at the back. But it was against Panama, the debutantes.
The Red Devils should be happy by their performance, but shouldn't be over the top by this. Much more tougher matches await them. Rather than enjoying this win, they should probably talk about how they failed to score in the first half.
Still a lot of work for Roberto Martinez before his team can be called as challengers for the trophy!