first_imgShare via Email 3 8 Read more 15 Devlin 1 Courtois Share on Facebook “The group is over in terms of qualification,” Clarke admitted. “What we have to do now, and we spoke about it after the game, is target third position. It doesn’t look very good where we are in the table just now. There are 12 points up for grabs between now and the end of this campaign and we need to make sure we finish third.”Belgium remain a joy to watch. The ease with which they dismantled Scotland was such that the teams could have been engaged in separate sports. And this was Belgium – who now have six wins out of six – minus Eden Hazard. “I was very pleased with my experienced players,” said Belgium’s manager, Roberto Martínez. “This was a fantastic result. We can improve, we can get better. There is a lot of growth to go.”Clarke had been critical of his players after Friday’s 2-1 defeat by Russia, meaning that changes in the home line-up were altogether logical. There was symmetry between this encounter and the one with Russia in the sense that Scotland opened promisingly. Whereas Scotland were a goal to the good against Russia three days earlier, a ruthless Belgian counter-attack left the hosts chasing a deficit inside 10 minutes here. Scotland’s flurry was also only that; blink and you missed it.From an attacking Scotland free-kick, a headed clearance fell to Dries Mertens. Stephen O’Donnell should have halted potential danger there, with Mertens instead afforded ample time to whip a pass up the line to the marauding De Bruyne. Lukaku, in yards of space, was played in by De Bruyne and slotted home beneath the advancing David Marshall. It was a goal of blissful simplicity, if one Scotland should have averted just outside their opposition’s penalty area.It may be harsh to blame generous defending for Belgium’s second, such was the quality of De Bruyne’s cross from the right touchline. Thomas Meunier had flicked the ball back into the Manchester City man’s path before this act of genius, with Thomas Vermaelen on hand to score from all of three yards. Scotland’s fans do not seem to get angry about the gulf between their team and the world’s best any more; the air of resignation was as palpable as it was familiar.Worse was to follow for Clarke before the interval. Charlie Mulgrew made a hash of trying to head a De Bruyne corner away, a situation that played out perfectly for Toby Alderweireld. The defender’s header bounced in, via the crossbar, with the assistant referee due credit for the perfect call in awarding the goal. Thirty two minutes in, it was a question of how many Belgium felt like scoring. Scotland were not even competitive.A terrific Marshall save prevented Mertens from adding Belgium’s fourth within two minutes of the re-start. Embarrassment followed for O’Donnell as he incurred a booking for a penalty area dive with only Vermaelen in close proximity. De Bruyne got the goal his showing fully deserved, a first-time, curled finish after collection of a Lukaku pass. “To keep a clean sheet pleases me more than anything,” said Martínez. This somehow implied it was ever in doubt. 5 Vertonghen 17 Snodgrass Reuse this content Substitutes 6 Dendoncker 1 Marshall BEL SCO 8 11 Scotland 21 MacGillivray 12 McLaughlin 22 Russell 4 Mulgrew Match stats 3 Robertson Share on Pinterest Lineups 6 McTominay BEL52SCO48% Corners (s 86′) Steve Clarke raised eyebrows with his pre-match assertion that Belgium might prove perfect opponents at the perfect time for Scotland. The manager’s attempts to boost the mood of a beleaguered football nation were undermined by harsh reality. Romelu Lukaku set the tone for a dominant Belgian performance – in which Kevin De Bruyne was at the heart of everything positive – as the Scots endured yet another harrowing night.Scotland teams, while unable to compete on technical terms with the world’s best over a concerted period now, are now also apparently easy to beat. Clarke must have his sights on next year’s Nations League play-offs as his only legitimate means of reaching Euro 2020 but he has a significant task in raising morale in the meantime. After years in the doldrums apathy reigns. Whether Clarke is any closer to finding solutions after four matches in charge is open to debate. Scotland have slipped to fifth in Group I. Scotland Goal attempts (s 77′) Euro 2020 qualifying 2 Alderweireld 12 Mignolet 3 Vermaelen 19 Phillips 8 McGinn Share on LinkedIn 20 Christie (s 68′) 16 McLean Belgium 11 Fraser (s 78′) 2 O’Donnell 9 Lukaku 52 48 16 Verschaeren 11 Carrasco match reports Possession 5 Cooper 10 McGregor 17 Origi Substitutes 18 Januzaj Belgium 7 De Bruyne 10 Vanaken 13 Sels 23 Batshuayi Share on Messenger 8 Tielemans Fouls (s 86′) (s 90′) 20 Benteke 21 Raman 15 Meunier Topics Share on Twitter 14 Mertens 23 Taylor 19 Praet 7 Forrest 9 McBurnie 7 Scotland Off target 7 Belgium 3 Scotland On target 8 Belgium 13 Bates Northern Ireland battle but Germany’s Halstenberg and Gnabry strike Share on WhatsApp 22 Chadli 18 Armstronglast_img

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