Belgium maintained their 100% Euro 2020 qualifying record with a hard-fought 2-0 win away to Kazakhstan.
Roberto Martinez’s men had a few days earlier become the first nation to book their place at next summer’s pan-European tournament. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, can no longer qualify and were playing for pride but the Hawks were no match for the world’s second-best ranked team, who counted on Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier for their goals.
Naturally, in such an encounter, there were individual winners and losers.
Winner: Michy Batshuayi
Today saw Martinez hand Batshuayi a rare start. The 26-year-old Belgian marksman is fast-becoming a forgotten man for club and country. He’s seldom featured for Chelsea this season with boss Frank Lampard preferring Tammy Abraham to lead the Blues’ line whilst Romelu Lukaku has regularly kept him on the fringes of the national team.
That being said, Batshuayi remains ever-dependable, and he kept that feeling intact by registering a third goal in only his fifth appearance this year. It’s hard to see him retaining his spot once Lukaku is available, but having such an option must be a blessing for Martinez.
🇧🇪 Another comfortable win for Belgium, and another clean sheet
⛔️ 7 clean sheets in a row
⏰ 704 minutes without conceding!pic.twitter.com/huZeHSXCEE
— Sporting Life Football (@SportingLifeFC) October 13, 2019
Loser: Abzal Beysebekov
Behind every goal there is an unfortunate protagonist. Beysebekov, the Kazakh right wing-back, will look back on his involvement in Batshuayi’s opening goal and feel he could, and perhaps should, have done a lot better. As the cross from Dennis Praet came, Beysebekov was standing alongside Batshuayi. But what came next was a naked illustration in the gulf between the two sets of players, in the blink of an eye the Chelsea striker had sped past him to convert the wicked pass from Praet into the back of the net.
Speaking of Praet, this was a fifth appearance for the Belgian national team, but more importantly his first in the starting line up. In his previous four matches, which totalled 73 minutes of playing time, the Leicester City man struggled to make a telling contribution. That all changed in the 21st minute when his sweet delivery, which eliminated a number of Kazakhstan players, found the grateful foot of Batshuayi.
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) October 13, 2019
Winner: Thomas Meunier
Meunier has been in and out of Paris Saint-Germain’s first team so far this season, though whenever he’s featured there’s been no question of his quality.
The marauding wing-back enjoyed one of his more straightforward international appearances, which happened to be his 40th, and the former postman delivered by controlling Eden Hazard’s sumptuous pass before slotting past Dmytro Nepogodov for his seventh goal for Belgium and first since registering against England in the 2018 World Cup third place play-off game.
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Loser: Gafurzhan Suyumbayev
Moments after Meunier had doubled Belgium‘s lead, Kazakhstan once again found themselves bearing down on Thibaut Courtois’ goal but did not make it count. For large swathes of the game, it must be said, the Eurasian nation held their own against their vastly superior guests.
On the stroke of the hour mark Gafurzhan Suyumbayev was edging toward Belgian’s penalty area before going down theatrically. It quickly transpired he wasn’t impeded, and for his troubles he nearly sustained a serious injury.
Winner: Thibaut Courtois
So much has been written about the Real Madrid shot-stopper, who hasn’t exactly lit up the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium since controversially relocating from Chelsea in the summer of 2018.
But that cannot be said about his international form, with this match seeing Courtois register a seventh consecutive Euro 2020 qualifying clean sheet. Incredibly, the only goal he’s conceded to date in the current campaign came in the 16th minute of their opening fixture against Russia, which Belgium ultimately won 3-1.