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Lukaku double helps Belgium to victory over Ireland at Euro 2016

The Boys in Green were on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline in Bordeaux.

Lukaku celebrates his first goal.
Lukaku celebrates his first goal.
Image: Hassan Ammar

Ireland 0

Belgium 3

- Ben Blake reports from the Stade de Bordeaux

ROMELU LUKAKU BAGGED two second half goals and Axel Witsel added another to dash Ireland’s hopes of a first win at Euro 2016 this afternoon.

The Boys in Green stood firm in the first half but conceded three times after the break at the Stade de Bordeaux and now go into their final Group E match with Italy on Wednesady knowing they will need a win to go through to the knockout stages.

With Jon Walters anavailable through injury, Martin O’Neill opted for just one change from the team which earned a 1-1 draw against Sweden. Burnley’s Stephen Ward was named at left full-back and Robbie Brady started on the left side of midfield in a 4-2-3-1.

Meanwhile, under pressure Belgium boss Marc Wilmots dropped three players after their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Italy as Thomas Meunier, Mousa Dembele and Yannick Carrasco came in for Laurent Ciman, Marouane Fellaini and Radja Nainggolan.

Republic of Ireland v Belgium - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de Bordeaux The Ireland team pose for a pre-match photograph. Source: Chris Radburn

The game was moments old when Eden Hazard attempted to feed Kevin De Bruyne but Ciaran Clark was in like a flash with a timely tackle to dispossess his opponent.

Belgium, eager to get off the mark at the tournament after losing out on Matchday 1, put pressure on Ireland’s left-hand side in the early stages. De Bruyne fed Carrasco and he fizzed the ball into the arms of Darren Randolph.

On 12 minutes, De Bruyne’s corner was sent to the front post and Alderweireld headed just off target. The Manchester City star was heavily-involved in most of the good play and his set-pieces were causing problems.

For the most part, Ireland were reduced to long balls with Long looking isolated and growing frustrated at having to feed off scraps.

However, they did create a couple of openings in the first half but just couldn’t find that final ball.

Hoolahan curled to the back post and Vermaelen was stretching to head behind. From the resulting corner, Ward’s backward header had to be touched over by Courtois.

Ireland were sitting off the Belgians a little and Dembele was allowed to stroll forward before De Bruyne whipped the ball across the goal. It was half-cleared as far as Hazard and the Belgium captain blasted the ball over the bar.

Down the other end, Alderweireld put in a super challenge on Hoolahan as he looked to slip in Hendrick.

Belgium had the ball in the net on 25 minutes. De Bruyne sumptuous ball found Carrasco over the top and the Atletico Madrid winger’s flick was tipped onto the bar by Randolph. Carrasco followed up to head home but the referee’s assistant rightly had his flag raised for offside.

Ireland’s outfield ten were working in overtime to keep a clean sheet, while Randolph got down well to keep out De Bruyne’s low drive. Meunier then dragged an effort wide.

Another Alderweireld header drom a corner was cleared off the line by Hoolahan and Vertonghen’s hooked effort missed the target as Ireland weathered the storm to keep the score at 0-0 heading into half-time.

Soccer Euro 2016 Belgium Ireland Axel Witsel and Glenn Whelan. Source: Hassan Ammar

Ireland began the second half strongly but fell behind two minutes after the restart. There was a genuine penalty shout as Long went down holding his head after being caught by the boots of Alderweireld and Vermaelen as the former cleared.

Not for the first time, however, Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir waved the claims away and De Bruyne broke into space down the right. He squared to Lukaku and the Everton striker opened his body before stroking the ball past Randolph and into the corner.

Refusing to accept defeat, Ireland attempted to hit back on the counter attack and Brady went on a run, then played a pass inside to Whelan, who saw his shot from distance deflected out of play.

The Boys in Green enjoyed a short spell of pressure but couldn’t pick out the final pass and conceded a second just after the hour mark.

Meunir rolled back to Carrasco and Witsel lost his marker with a late run to power home with his head from the cross.

And Lukaku was to double his tally for the day on 70 minutes. Hazard had acres of space to run into after skipping by Clark and he teed up his team-mate for a simple finish.

Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane were sent on in late stages but to no avail. O’Neill will now need to pick his players up before a difficult final match against the Italians in Lille as, although their chances of progression look slim, there is still all to play for.

IRELAND: Randolph; Coleman, O’Shea, Clark, Ward; Whelan, McCarthy (McClean 62), Brady, Hoolahan (McGeady 71), Hendrick; Long (Robbie Keane 78).

BELGIUM: Courtois; Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Witsel, Dembele (Nainggolan 57), De Bruyne, Hazard, Carrasco (Mertens 63); R Lukaku (Benteke 83).

Listen to The42′s Ben Blake on the 98FM Euro 2016 Daily podcast throughout the tournament 

Letter from Bordeaux: Irish fans drink Connemara dry and Wilmots is the gaffer

Will Wes Hoolahan start and more Ireland-Belgium talking points

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Ben Blake

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