By Andy Jones
- Fellaini dropped to bench for encounter with Ireland
- Belgium off the mark after opening defeat to Italy
Everton striker Romelu Lukaku scored a brace as Belgium got their Euro 2016 up an running with a 3-0 win of Republic of Ireland.
Belgian coach Marc Wilmots came under fire for the teams lack lustre performance against the Italians and he replaced Fellaini and Nainggolan with Dembele and Carrasco of Athletico Madrid.
The changes made the difference as Belgium played with much more power and purpose than in the first match against Italy.
Although the game was goalless at half time, it didn’t take long for Belgium to break the deadlock in the second half.
A swift counter attack saw De Bruyne break clear and pull the ball back to Lukaku to finish superbly with his left foot and answer his critics.
De Bruyne now has an impressive 5 goals and 5 assists and his last 10 matches for the national team.
Witsel headed home to make it 2-0 shortly after, before another swift counter attack saw Hazard find Lukaku unmarked in the area to put the game to bed.
The Republic of Ireland had no answer and are now rock bottom of the group and must now beat Italy to have any hope of qualifying. For Belgium, Sweden await in what is a key game in deciding the outcome of the group.
Tough task for Ireland
The defeat leaves Ireland with one point from their two games. They sit level on one point with Sweden, while Belgium have three points and Italy six points.
Ireland face Italy in their final group game on their Wednesday evening. Italy have already qualified and may opt to rest several key players for the game.
Should Ireland beat Italy, they may have a chance of qualifying as one of the four best third placed teams.