Belgium consolidate lead; Serbia keep pace with Portugal

Sports Desk, Mar 30 (efe-epa).- Belgium pounded Belarus 8-0 Tuesday to go 3 points clear atop Group E in the European qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup, while little-touted Serbia won again to remain level with Portugal in Group A.

Hans Vanaken and Leandro Trossard each had a brace as the Red Devils, ranked No. 1 in the world by FIFA, came roaring back after being held 1-1 by the Czech Republic.

Michy Batshuayi, Jeremy Doku, Dennis Praet and Christian Benteke accounted for the rest of the goals as Belgium improved to 7 points from three matches.

The Czechs are second in the group on 4 points after losing 1-0 Tuesday to Wales, who prevailed on a goal in the 81st minute by Daniel James.

Gareth Bale assisted on the match winner, which came four minutes after Wales went down to 10 men with the ejection of Connor Roberts. The Czechs played most of the second half shorthanded after Patrik Schick was sent off.

The Welsh are level with Belarus on 3 points, but sit above the East European side in the standings on goal difference.

Hapless Gibraltar were on the end of the day’s other rout, losing 0-7 to the Netherlands. Memphis Depay had a double and Steven Berghuis, Luuk de Jong, Georginio Wijnaldum, Donyell Malen and Donny van de Beek contributed a goal apiece.

Thanks to Tuesday’s scoring spree, the Dutch are second in Group G with 6 points, the same as Montenegro and Norway.

Turkey continue to lead the group, but by only a point after being forced to settle for a 3-3 draw with Latvia, who battled back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to earn their first point.

Like the Turks, Montenegro opened the campaign with a pair of victories, but they faltered Tuesday at home to Norway, who got a badly needed result on a first-half goal by Alexander Sorloth.

Portugal, the reigning European champions, spotted hosts Luxembourg a goal in the 30th minute of Tuesday’s match before coming back to win 1-3.

Diego Jota, author of both goals in the 2-2 draw with Serbia last weekend, got the equalizer in first-half stoppage time. Cristiano Ronaldo put the Portuguese ahead in the 50th minute and Joao Palhinha added an insurance marker with 10 minutes left.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored twice for Serbia in a 1-2 triumph over Azerbaijan. The Balkan side are even with Portugal on 7 points, but Ronaldo & co. lead Group A on goal difference.

Group H is shaping up as the most competitive, with the top four teams separated by just 2 points.

On Tuesday, Slovakia edged Russia 2-1 while Luka Modric had a goal as Croatia thumped Malta 3-0 and Cyprus shut out Slovenia 1-0.

Those results leave Croatia and Russia with 6 points each, but the Croats are top of the group on goal difference. Slovakia remain in contention with 5 and Cyprus improved to 4 points. EFE


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