Lukaku’s four-goal haul lifts Belgium to big win over Azerbaijan
BRUSSELS: Striker Romelo Lukaku scored four goals in 20 first-half minutes as brilliant Belgium cruised to an emphatic 5-0 victory over 10-man Azerbaijan in a Euro 2024 Group F qualifier in blustery Brussels on Sunday. Lukaku put on a magnificent display of clinical finishing as he took his tally in the pool to 14 in eight games as already-qualified Belgium earned the top spot in the group. Azerbaijan finished in fourth with seven points from its eight games. The home side was 4-0 up inside 37 minutes as it profited from an early red card for Azerbaijan’s Eddy Israfilov who was sent off for a second booking after a wild lunge on Lukaku. Leandro Trossard scored a late fifth goal, but Belgium’s effort was spearheaded by its captain Lukaku, who took his tally of international goals to 83 in 113 appearances before he was substituted at halftime. The victory extends Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco’s unbeaten run at the start of his reign to 10 games, winning eight of those. After a poor World Cup in Qatar, the confidence has returned for the team despite the absence of several regulars, not least the injured Kevin De Bruyne. Azerbaijan could not cope with its passing and movement, and the power of Lukaku up front, who bullied the visitor’s backline and provided four clinical finishes. The night got off to a bizarre start when the Swedish national anthem was played instead that of Azerbaijan, to bemused looks from the visitor and no shortage of embarrassment from home officials. It took until the 17th minute to open the scoring as Jeremy Doku was left unmarked on the edge of the box and his cross was easily headed into the net by Lukaku.