Rio De Janeiro, Jun 23 (AFP): Young forward Divock Origi vindicated his coach Mark Wilmots’ decision to introduce him in the second half as his opportunistic strike in the 88th minute helped Belgium defeat a gutsy Russian team 1-0 making it to the final 16 of the World Cup here today.
It was a match dominated by Fabio Capello coached Russian team but when it mattered, the Belgians came up trumps.
Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard sprinted down the left beating right-back Andrey Yeschenko before providing a perfect pull-back for Origi who smashed it home from the close range.
Credit for the strike should go to Hazard, whose sprint on the counter caught the Russian defence napping as they were on ascendancy for the better part of the second half.
Belgium with six points from two matches have booked their berth into the second round while Russia will now have to beat Algeria in their last game and hope that other results go in their favour.
Belgium, a semi-finalist in the 1986 edition have never made it to the knock-out rounds since 1990 edition. With their finest collection of players in the last three decades, Vincent Kompany and his men are ready to give a tough time to the other oppositions.
But if Russians didn’t break the deadlock, only they were to be blamed.
Forward Alexander Korkorin missed one of the easiest chances in the championship in the 44th minute when he got a free-header with left back Dmitry Kombarov providing a measured cross from the left.
Korkorin did the hard work of evading Vincent Kompany but headed wide off the target when he had Belgian custodian Courtois at his mercy.
Russia had two more chances of scoring in the first half with Victor Faizulin unleashing a powerful right-footer after Oleg Shatov set him up. The shot was saved by Courtois diving to his right. The match was into the 12th minute at that point of time.
The Russians might think that they were hard done by when German referee Felix Brych dismissed their claims of a penalty with Maksim Kanunikov trying to dribble past Belgium defender Toby Alderweireld was brought down inside the box in the 27th minute.
Off the counter, the trio of Hazard, Mertens and Lukako conjured a nice move to enter the opposition’s defensive third.
Mertens was a livewire down right where he repeatedly hoodwinked Kombarov weaving past him on occasions.
The Napoli star got close in the 20th minute beating a defender with outside dodge but his shot was inches off the mark.
The second half saw Russian team make a lot of forays into the opposition defensive third but couldn’t get the decisive goal. Glushakov, Shatov and Faizulin conjured up some good moves to keep the ‘Red Devils’ defence under pressure.
In the 65th minute, Shativ wriggled his way past substitute Jan Vertonghen before providing Faizulin with an assist but latter’s attempt straight hit Kompany’s shin pads.
Belgium however came back into the match during the last 10 minutes when they really tested the Russian defence.
Substitute Kevin Mirallas took advantage of a wrongly formed ‘Human Wall’ as his low grounder hit the upright much to his dismay. But that was the time when Belgians played the pressing game which ended in Origi finding the back of the net.
For the record, all the three goals scored by Belgium in the championship have come courtesy substitutes.