Batshuayi at the double as Belgium put four past San Marino


Michy Batshuayi scored twice as Belgium claimed a low-key 4-0 victory over San Marino to strengthen their position at the top of UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying Group I.

Chelsea striker Batshuayi opened the scoring from the penalty spot just before half-time in what proved the only goal of the opening period at San Marino Stadium.

Dries Mertens added a second shortly following his introduction after the break before fellow substitute Nacer Chadli notched Belgium's third.

Batshuayi then added a fourth late on with a header to complete the routine three points.

Belgium have won all five of their Euro 2020 qualifying matches but were well below their best in Serravalle.

The final score of a match between the team at the top of the FIFA rankings and the team at the very bottom was entirely predictable.

However, the manner of it came as more of a surprise as San Marino, ranked last in 211th place, produced a defiant defensive display to stifle the attacking talent of their more illustrious opponents.

The last time the sides met in Belgium, the Red Devils strolled to an emphatic 8-0 win so for San Marino to restrict them to just four shots on target in the first half was to their credit.

That it took until the 43rd minute for Belgium to open the scoring, from the penalty spot, against a team of San Marino’s standing will be of a slight concern to Roberto Martinez ahead of tougher assignments.

San Marino defender Mirko Palazzi was unfortunate when the ball bounced up and struck him on the arm and Batshuayi slotted home the resulting spot-kick.

Perhaps the biggest compliment paid to San Marino in the match was when Mertens added a second with a close-range finish after being teed up by Chadli, he immediately grabbed the ball out of the net and took it back to the centre circle to kick-off again.

Mertens then returned the favour when he crossed for Chadli to steer the ball home before Batshuayi headed home Yannick Carrasco's cross late on.

What it means

Belgium's win ensures they remain top of Group I with five consecutive victories while San Marino are rock bottom without a point and no goals scored.

San Marino have not claimed a point in a qualification match of any type since a goalless draw against Estonia in November 2014 but this performance will give encouragement, they can possibly repeat the feat during this campaign.

Belgium boss Martinez has loftier ambitions and will demand an improvement in forthcoming matches.

Mertens makes the difference

Following an insipid first-half display Martinez introduced Mertens 10 minutes into the second half and he had the required impact.

The Napoli forward scored Belgium’s first goal from open play when he tapped in from close range and then teed up Chadli for their second.

His busy and energetic performance was one of the few plus points for Belgium in a largely unremarkable and forgettable victory.

Origi fails to stake his claim

Divock Origi normally finds himself down the pecking order given Belgium's wealth of striking talent.

He was handed a chance to impress against the lowest ranked international team in world football but fluffed his opportunity with a subdued display.

The Liverpool forward, who was substituted 10 minutes into the second half, is unlikely to force Belgium boss Martinez into a radical rethink anytime soon. 

What's next?

Belgium are back in qualifying action again on Tuesday (AEST) when they face Scotland at Hampden Park in Glasgow. San Marino have another home fixture when they host Cyprus in Serravalle on the same day.

Source Omnisport