Sunday, June 23, 2024

Euro 2024: Lukaku double steers Belgium to victory in Estonia

Euro 2024
Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku challenges for the ball with Estonia’s Marten Kuusk during the Euro 2024 group F qualifying match. (AP pic)

TALLINN, June 21: Stand-in captain Romelu Lukaku scored twice in three minutes and Johan Bakayoko netted his first international goal as Belgium ended a tumultuous few days with a 3-0 victory over Estonia in their Euro 2024 Group F qualifier on Tuesday.
The visitors had been rocked by a row between new coach Domenico Tedesco and veteran goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the build-up to the game, and made a slow start before Lukaku pounced with two close-range finishes towards the end of the first half.
Austria lead the pool with 10 points from four games, with Belgium in second place on seven points from three matches. Estonia have a single point from their three fixtures.
Belgium took the lead when Lukaku prodded in Aster Vranckx’s right-wing cross from six yards, and three minutes later made it 2-0 via a low cross from the left. Bakayoko added a late third with a fine left-footed finish.
The victory follows a chaotic build-up to the fixture after a war of words between Tedesco and Courtois that has yet to be resolved and has left the latter’s international future in doubt.
Tedesco said on Monday the keeper refused to travel to Estonia after he felt disrespected when, in the absence of injured regular skipper Kevin De Bruyne, Lukaku was named captain for the 1-1 weekend home draw with Austria.
But Courtois has angrily denied this, saying he is nursing a knee injury and had been advised by doctors to skip the game.
Haaland double fires Norway to 3-1 win over Cyprus
Norway’s Erling Haaland scored twice in the second half as they cruised to a 3-1 win over Cyprus on Tuesday to get their Euro 2024 Group A campaign back on track after a shock 2-1 home defeat to Scotland in their previous game.
The win lifts the Norwegians to third in the five-team group on four points from four matches, behind second-placed Georgia on goal difference while Scotland, who are hosting Georgia on Tuesday, top the group with nine points from three games.
Norway broke the deadlock in the 12th minute as Alexander Sorloth’s cross from the right flew just over Haaland’s but dropped perfectly for Ola Solbakken to blast home his first international goal.
Haaland converted a penalty in the 56th minute and followed that up with another powerful finish on the hour to take his season tally to 56 goals, the most of any player in the top five European leagues and two more than France’s Kylian Mbappe.
Grigoris Kastanos scored a stoppage-time consolation for the visitors to reduce the deficit but it could not spoil the party as the Norwegians chalked up their first win in the group. (Agencies)