Eden Hazard marked his 99th appearance as Belgium kicked off their Euro 2020 qualifying with three points in Brussels. Youri Tielemans opened the scoring for the hosts inside the opening quarter of an hour but that advantage lasted just a couple of minutes as Denis Cheryshev capitalised on a Thibaut Courtois mistake to level the scores for Russia.
Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi started in attack alongside Hazard and could have restored the lead with seven minutes left of the first half, but his effort was thwarted with a clearance off the line. Shortly before the break, Hazard burst into the box from the right before drawing a foul from former Blues defender Yuri Zhirkov, and the Belgium captain scored the resulting penalty in confident fashion.
Belgium could have added to their lead in the second half, when Batshuayi hit a shot against the post for the second time, before Hazard sealed the three points with his 29th international goal, a left-footed finish swept in from close range in the 88th minute to seal a 3-1 win for Belgium. Hazard and Batshuayi played the full game.
Belgium’s next game is away to Cyprus on Sunday with Hazard set to record a landmark 100th international appearance.
Mateo Kovacic made his 50th appearance for Croatia, as the Croatians left it late to beat Azerbaijan 2-1 when Andrej Kramaric snatched a winner with a confident curling finish with 12 minutes remaining. Kovacic who started in midfield alongside Luka Modric had been replaced five minutes earlier, while Mario Pasalic was an unused substitute.
Croatia’s next game is against Hungary on Sunday.
Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen started in defence as Denmark played their first game of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 2-2 draw against Kosovo. The 22-year-old played in the centre of a four-man defence for his 17th international cap, though it took a stoppage-time equaliser from Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to salvage the contest for the Danes.
Latest signing Christian Pulisic was in the starting line-up and Matt Miazga was an unused substitute as the United States beat Ecuador 1-0 in Orlando on Thursday to secure their third consecutive win under head coach Gregg Berhalter.