England weathered an early Belgium storm to secure an unlikely 2-1 victory at Wembley that lifted them to the top of their UEFA Nations League group.
England survived an early scare after ex-Man Utd frontman Romelu Lukaku failed to guide his header on target after a superb sweeping move.
Neat interplay between Yannick Carrasco and Timothy Castagne carved England’s defences open, but Lukaku’s headed effort following the cutback left a lot to be desired.
The hosts again had to rely on an element of good fortune less than a minute later after an exceedingly late flag was raised to chalk off a Belgian opener.
Carrasco latched on to Thomas Meunier’s pull-back before firming low into the corner of the net past Pickford. A late flag for offside eventually rose, however, with an offending Belgian forward deemed to have been in Jordan Pickford’s eyeline immediately prior to the shot.
Belgium were not deterred, however, and took a deserved lead in the 16th minute from the penalty spot.
Lukaku drove at pace past Eric Dier who could do little but bring the hitman down to prevent a goalscoring opportunity from open play.
Lukaku assumed the penalty taking responsibilities and sent Pickford the wrong way to put his country in front.
11th October 2019: Zdenek Ondrášek scores for Czech Republic
*England keep six consecutive clean sheets*
11th October 2020: Romelu Lukaku scores for Belgium
Exactly 365 days between England's last two goals conceded. 🗓 pic.twitter.com/FAxcEO3SDm
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 11, 2020
The Three Lions were able to weather the storm, and were given a vital reprieve when Thomas Meunier needlessly conceded a penalty.
The right-back pulled at the shoulder of England skipper Jordan Henderson as a corner came in, with Marcus Rashford duly dispatching the resulting spot kick to bring parity back to the scores.
— England (@England) October 11, 2020
Belgium could’ve and should’ve regained the lead moments later when Lukaku’s delicate flick set Carrasco free inside the box.
The winger’s snatched effort flew harmlessly wide, however, ensuring England went into the break with the scores level.
England emerged from the tunnel with a greater sense of purpose and steel in the second half, and restricted the flow of service to the ever-dangerous Lukaku in the early going.
Mason Mount had struggled to impose himself on the occasion prior to the break, but found himself in the thick of the action just after the hour mark.
The Chelsea playmaker picked up the scraps from a mistimes Belgian clearance before trying his luck from just inside the box.
His deflected effort looped high over the stricken Simon Mignolet to hand the home side an unlikely lead.
— Amazon Prime Video Sport (@primevideosport) October 11, 2020
The onus fell on Kevin De Bruyne to haul his country back into the game, and the City talisman’s sublime pass almost did just that.
Measured with the outside of his right boot, De Bruyne split the rear-guard wide open, but Carrasco’s deft flicked effort drifted agonisingly past the post.
Despite suffering a hamstring scare earlier in the week, Harry Kane was brought on and came close to putting the game to bed.
The striker’s run was timed to perfection to meet a whipped corer, but the contact was glancing when only a firmer connection would do.
As the Belgians went in search of an equaliser space began to open up on the counter, with Marcus Rashford blazing over from 18 yards in a chance he would’ve expected to have buried.
It mattered not, however, as England maintained their narrow advantage to the final whistle to regain top spot in group A2 of the UEFA Nations League.