Belgium have survived a scare to produce a stunning comeback against Algeria in their 2014 FIFA World Cup Group H opener.
The Rode Duivels were staring down the barrel of a disappointing defeat following Sofiane Feghouli’s first-half penalty but managed to rally by scoring twice in the final 20 minutes to record a dramatic 2-1 victory in Belo Horizonte.
Algeria opened the scoring in the 25th minute when Jan Vertonghen was yellow carded for hauling down Madjid Bougherra as the central defender strived to meet Faouzi Ghoulam’s cross from the left.
Feghouli stepped up to the spot and slotted home easily from 12 yards, sending Thibaut Courtois the wrong way, and the Algerian fans into raptures.
It was Algeria’s first goal at a World Cup since 1986, ending a 506-minute drought since Djamel Zidane scored against Northern Ireland in Mexico.
Belgium started to commit players forward after going down but Algeria had all the answers in defence for most of the remainder of the first half and much of the second term.
Wilmots’ desperation grew stronger as the minutes ticked over in the second half and he sent Marouane Fellaini on in the 65th minute. The move paid handsome dividends as the towering forward produced a terrific equalising header from a Kevin de Bruyne cross from the left.
Fellaini managed to get the ball over Algeria keeper Rais M’Bolhi and in off the underside of the crossbar with a glancing effort with the back of his lavish hairdo.
The Belgian side were continuing to push forward in search of a second goal and it came with 10 minutes remaining when Dries Mertens, who replaced Nacer Chadli at half-time, fired home from inside the area after a swift counter-attack.
De Bruyne took possession in midfield before feeding Eden Hazard who unselfishly squared it across for Mertens who lashed it beyond M’Bolhi to put Belgium ahead.
Fellaini almost had a third for the Belgians when he rocketed a header goalward in the 84th minute but M’Bolhi, who put on an impressive display, provided one of the saves of the tournament when he acrobatically flicked the ball over his own crossbar.
Belgium went about maintaining possession in the dying moments in order to hold onto their slender lead and it worked perfectly as they got out of jail to come away with a vital victory to open their 2014 World Cup account.
The Belgians will now look forward to their June 22 clash with Russia in Rio de Janeiro while the brave Algerians will now prepare for South Korea in Porto Alegre on the same day.
2014 FIFA World Cup – Group H
Belgium: 2 (Marouane Fellaini 70’, Dries Mertens 80’)
Algeria: 1 (Sofiane Feghouli (p) 25’)
Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte – 56,800
Yellow cards: BEL - Jan Vertonghen 24’
ALG - Nabil Bentaleb 34’
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