De Bruyne and Batshuayi help Belgium hold off Wales in Nations League
De Bruyne and Batshuayi help Belgium hold off Wales in Nations League: If this is Kevin De Bruyne when he’s bored, then Belgium’s World Cup opponents have good reason to fear what he’s capable of when he’s in the mood.
While De Bruyne admitted he was tired of playing Wales, this was their ninth meeting in the past decade and their fourth in the past 18 months.
He still scored a sublime goal and set up another for Michy Batshuayi to put his team on the path to a victory in the Nations League.
De Bruyne smashed a shot against the post, Youri Tielemans swerved wide, and Eden Hazard curled a chance just past a post.
However, Michy Batshuayi spooned another shot over, so things looked bleak for Wales at halftime.
Roberto Martnez, one of the game’s most peaceful and mild-mannered individuals, was sent his first red card as a manager for time-wasting was indicative of how things had stalled for Belgium.
This is a first for me,” Martinez remarked. I must say, I was taken aback by that. Things would have been over if I hadn’t kicked the ball [away]. The judge’s verdict stands, and I respect that.”
Wales were fortunate to be down only two goals at halftime, but their solid second-half performance bodes well for their chances at qualifying for their first World Cup in 64 years.
They face the United States in their opening match in Doha in 60 days, and despite a disappointing first half, there are many reasons to be upbeat about the match.
Brennan Johnson’s boldness was vital as Wales attempted to claw back into the game; his cross set up Kieffer Moore’s header, and with five minutes remaining, Johnson latched onto Connor Roberts’ pass and blasted wide.
Changing to a 5-4-1 formation at halftime was “a terrific lesson for us,” as Wales’ manager Rob Page put it. When we went for broke, they simply played right through us. Halftime saw us dip a bit deeper and alter the form.
Injuries kept Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, and Joe Allen out of the game until Gareth Bale entered in the 64th minute. Despite missing their star striker Romelu Lukaku, Belgium looked like a well-oiled machine as they cruised to a 3-0 halftime lead.
Seven players from that starting lineup had also started Belgium’s Euro 2016 quarterfinal loss to Wales; goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was the only survivor from that game.
Wales started off strong, but after De Bruyne scored for Belgium after 10 minutes, thanks to a traditional, well-executed Belgium play, they never recovered.
Batshuayi saw De Bruyne to his left and received a pinpoint first-time pass from Thomas Meunier into the right channel. From a Welsh point of view, what followed felt joyful and vindictive.
From the edge of the box, De Bruyne took a first-time shot with his weaker foot, and the ball squeezed past Hennessey into the corner. Eight minutes before halftime, Batshuayi scored on a tap-in after being set up by a superb ball from De Bruyne to the back post.
Martinez was one of the purring ones left behind. To all of our fans, he continued, “Don’t take for granted watching Kevin De Bruyne play.” “I believe that, in terms of his vision of the game, his grasp of time and space, and his ability to put his vision into practice, he is the most excellent playmaker in world football at the present time.
I was blown away by his performance, but he’s been consistently excellent. It’s easy to forget how fortunate we are to have a player of Kevin’s caliber at times.
During the six minutes of second-half stoppage time, De Bruyne left to a standing ovation, but the Welsh fans may have been thinking of other names after the way their team finished the game. “The game was a tale of two halves,” Johnson reflected.
We didn’t know how good we could be, and even more so, what we could bring going forward, and it held us back in the first half. None of that was demonstrated by us.
We changed our approach for the second half and played quite well. We proved Rob Page right when he advised us to “trust ourselves” and “show why we’re here.”