Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Hazard brothers shine as Belgium make it nine wins in a row

Eden and Thorgen both on the scoresheet in 4-1 win over Russia, plus Germany, Holland and Croatia also qualify

Eden Hazard (L) and his brother Thorgan celebrate during Belgium's 4-1 victory over Russia in their Euro 2020 qualifying match St Petersburg. EPA
Eden Hazard (L) and his brother Thorgan celebrate during Belgium's 4-1 victory over Russia in their Euro 2020 qualifying match St Petersburg. EPA

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

Although both teams had already made it to the finals, the game got off to a fast start and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Thorgan Hazard fired the visitors ahead with a superb 19th-minute goal when he side-stepped his marker and blasted a shot into the top corner.

Real Madrid star Eden Hazard made it 2-0 in the 33rd 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 livewire Eden Hazard doubled his tally shortly before halftime from a brilliant move, with midfielder Kevin De Bruyne squaring the ball unselfishly for the forward to stroke into an empty net from 12 metres.

Belgium struck again in the 72nd minute as Lukaku made amends for his early miss, rifling inside the near post from 16 metres.

Georgi Dzhikiya finally gave the subdued home fans something to cheer when he swept home a close-range rebound in the 79th minute.

Elsewhere, The Netherlands, Germany and World Cup finalists Croatia became the last big hitters to qualify for next summer's finals. Austria also made it through to the multi-host tournament, which kicks off on June 12.

Ronald Koeman's resurgent Dutch needed a point to qualify for their first major tournament since coming third at the 2014 World Cup and got what they needed in a scrappy goalless draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast.

"It means a lot for us as players. Hopefully it means so much to the Dutch people," Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk said.

However they survived a huge scare when Steven Davis smashed a first-half penalty high over the bar.

Davis' spot-kick miss left Michael O'Neill's side third and hoping for a way into the tournament via the playoffs.

The draw allowed Germany to move top in the group as Toni Kroos hit a brace in a simple 4-0 win over Belarus in Moenchengladbach which saw them qualify for the Euros for the 13th time in a row.

A deft back-heeled goal from defender Matthias Ginter and impressive finishing by Leon Goretzka and Kroos gave the Germans a three-goal lead early in the second half.

Captain Manuel Neuer produced a superb save to keep out Belarus striker Igor Stasevich's penalty before Kroos dribbled through the defence to claim his second goal and make sure of a routine win.

"Overall we did well, but at the moment I don't include us among the favourites for the European title," said Kroos.

Croatia survived a scare to secure their place in the Euros after coming from behind beat Slovakia 3-1 in Rijeka.

The World Cup runners up needed just a point to ensure qualification but Robert Bozenik tapped the away side ahead in the 32nd minute.

However it was one-way traffic in the second half and Croatia's qualification was never in doubt once Nikola Vlasic drilled home the leveller.

Bruno Petkovic headed the hosts in front and Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with 16 minutes left.

Austria booked their place with a 2-1 win over North Macedonia that kept third-placed Slovenia at bay despite their 1-0 triumph over Latvia.

They are second in Group G behind Poland, who had already qualified going into this round of games but maintained a three-point lead at the top of the group thanks to a 2-1 win at Israel.

Updated: November 17, 2019 08:38 AM

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