Belgium crush Panama in WC clash

Belgium were expected to put daylight between themselves and the Central Americans, who are contesting their maiden World Cup finals.

A front-three consisting of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens were bound to pose problems for their unfancied opponents.

The Belgians were on the front foot after five minutes as Yannick Carrasco got free on the far side for a long ball down the wing, but he shot straight down the goal minder’s throat.

Within seconds, it was Mertens who tried to break the deadlock after a loose ball off a corner fell to his path but Jamie Penedo pulled off a wonderful tip over the top.

After 12 minutes, a poor pass from Fidel Escobar to Penedo alerted Hazard who pounced with a quick shot that riddled into the side-netting.

Belgium were probing from all angles and were once again denied by the side-netting after a short corner played in Mertens, who took aim only to hit the outside of the net on 18 minutes.

On 37 minutes, Hazard was sent clear with a long ball after showing good control towards the box- brought the best out of Penedo.

The breakthrough finally came for Belgium in the second-half after Mertens converted a sumptuous volley off a glancing clearance that fell perfectly for him on 47 minutes.

It was then left to Kevin De Bruyne to try and add a second when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a free-kick, which he bundled over the top.

Panama soon reverted to the same stubbornness they showed in the first half and they came close to drawing level when Fernando Murillo got out wide to bring the best out of Courtois, who saved easily.

Their fate was sealed when an exquisite delivery with the outside boot by De Bruyne connected with Lukaku for an easy diving header on 69 minutes.

Matters depreciated for them as Lukaku delicately chipped an advancing Penedo following a swift counterattack instigated by Hazard to round off an opening day win in Group G.