Wales lose their opening World Cup qualifier against Belgium as No 1-ranked hosts come from behind with Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku on target after Harry Wilson’s shock opener
- Wales took the lead with Harry Wilson finishing off a brilliant team move
- Kevin de Bruyne replied with a great strike from range to pull his side level
- Thorgan Hazard then headed Belgium in front and they cruised the game
- Romelu Lukaku put the result beyond any doubt with a penalty late on for 3-1
- Latest World Cup 2022 news, including fixtures and results
Gareth Bale revealed this week that playing in a World Cup would put the seal on his glittering career – but Kevin De Bruyne will have far loftier targets in the international game.
Though Wales emerged with credit from their opening qualifier for Qatar 2022, they return empty-handed after De Bruyne’s first-half masterclass earned the points for the world’s No1-ranked nation.
Harry Wilson’s superbly-worked goal gave Wales a shock lead yet Belgium dominated the rest of the half, equalising through De Bruyne and completing the comeback when Thorgan Hazard – brother of injured Real Madrid star Eden – headed home.
Kevin de Bruyne (middle) pulled Belgium level with a stunning strike from range in the first half
Harry Wilson had broken the deadlock after finishing off a wonderful team move for Wales
Thorgan Hazard headed in the second for Belgium to complete a rapid turnaround
Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku slotted a penalty late on to put the result beyond any doubt
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
BELGIUM: Courtois 5.5; Alderweireld 6, Vermaelen 5.5 (Denayer 46, 6), Vertonghen 6; Meunier 6.5, Dendoncker 6.5, Tielemans 7, Hazard 7 (Castagne 84); Mertens 7 (Trossard 90+3); Lukaku 6.5.
Unused subs: Mignolet, Casteels, Foket, Vanaken, Januzaj, Praet, Benteke, Doku, Batshuayi.
Goals: De Bruyne 22, Hazard 28, Lukaku 72 (pen)
Manager: Roberto Martinez 6.5
WALES: Ward 6; Mepham 5.5, J Lawrence 6, Rodon 6.5; Roberts 6.5, Allen 6 (Morrell 8, 5.5), Ampadu 6, N Williams 5; Bale 6.5 (Moore 84), Wilson 7 (T Roberts 67, 6), James 6.
Unused subs: Hennessey, Davies, Gunter, Cabango, J Williams, Robson-Kanu, Norrington-Davies, Smith, T Lawrence.
Goals: Wilson 10
Manager: Rob Page 6
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir 6
Wales improved after the break but Romelu Lukaku’s penalty 18 minutes from full-time ended their hopes as Belgium gained a degree of revenge for Wales’ stunning victory over them in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
With Rob Page in charge due to the continued absence of Ryan Giggs, Wales were looking to extend their unbeaten record against Belgium to five matches.
There are flaws to Roberto Martinez’s side but some of their football in the first half was breathtaking and they will be a huge threat at Euro 2020.
Wales were depleted by injuries and will give their main men a breather when they face Mexico in a friendly in Cardiff on Saturday.
Wales were already without experienced pair Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies due to injury and early in the game they lost Joe Allen, another key man.
The midfielder pulled up with only eight minutes on the clock and was replaced by Joe Morrell.
Yet Page’s team responded brilliantly and took the lead with a fabulous goal two minutes later.
Gareth Bale was at the heart of it, releasing Connor Roberts with a clever touch. Wilson’s dummy allowed Bale to collect Roberts’ return pass and slide it through for Wilson, who guided the ball calmly past Thibaut Courtois.
It was an uplifting start to the campaign – but it didn’t last. Not for nothing are Belgium top of the FIFA rankings and they soon took control.
Joe Rodon did well to block Romelu Lukaku’s effort from inside the box, before Youri Tielemans’ volley was deflected wide for a corner.
Only Lukaku will know how he failed to equalise in the 17th minute, when the Inter Milan forward somehow steered De Bruyne’s cross over from four years.
De Bruyne ran the show and had such a firm hold of midfield that allowed his side control
Roberto Martinez will be delighted with the start his team made to World Cup qualifying
De Bruyne decided to take matters into his own hands and scored with a glorious 25-yard strike which swerved beyond Danny Ward and went in off the post.
Belgium were into their stride now and took the lead in the 28th minute when Roberts slipped at the vital moment as he tried to defend Thomas Meunier’s cross, allowing Hazard to plant a free header beyond Ward.
The half-time whistle came as Wales looked as though they might be overwhelmed but the visitors were more positive at the start of the second half.
Bale (right) shared a laugh with Real Madrid team-mate Thibaut Courtois (left) after full time
Bale’s ambitious overhead-kick dropped wide after Dan James had steered Roberts’ cross back into the danger zone, and James himself found a promising position inside the box only to fire wide.
Belgium resisted, though, and sealed victory when Chris Mepham’s clumsy challenge felled Dries Mertens inside the box, and Lukaku sent Ward the wrong way from the spot.
Bale’s dream of reaching a World Cup became slightly more difficult ahead of next week’s meeting with the Czech Republic.
De Bruyne, meanwhile, will already be thinking about winning it.
Bale (left) and De Bruyne (right) are both dreaming about reaching the 2022 Qatar World Cup
Scroll through Sportsmail’s live feed to see how all the action unfolded…