SPORTS

Belgium defeats Greece, sends it down to third

GEORGE GEORGAKOPOULOS

TAGS: Soccer

Belgium ended Greece’s unbeaten run in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers on Sunday winning 2-1 in Piraeus.

The result means Greece has dropped to third at the table, one point behind Bosnia, while Belgium has qualified to the World Cup finals. Out of the two home games with Estonia and Belgium Greece has therefore collected just one point.

Featuring three changes from the Thursday game against Estonia (Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Yiannis Maniatis and Andreas Samaris), Greece remained on a 4-5-1 formation that showed coach Michael Skibbe’s insistence on winning over the midfield.

Belgium enjoyed most of the possession in the first half at a Georgios Karaiskakis Stadium that was unusually filled to capacity, but the biggest chance of the first 45 minutes fell to Greece: Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois averted a spectacular goal by Costas Stafylidis by fingering the ball just enough to send the Greek defender’s screamer against the woodwork on the 18th minute.

After the interval Greece had two men up front as Skibbe moved Carlos Zeca up the field, offering support to striker Tasos Donis.

The Greeks had a good chance to score but the Alexandros Tziolis header from a Maniatis cross went over the bar on the 52nd.

Belgium scored on the 70th minute via a long-range left-foot shot by Jan Vertonghen that keeper Orestis Karnezis could do nothing about.

Yet just three minutes later Portuguese-born Zeca scored his maiden goal for Greece slotting the ball home from a Giorgos Tzavellas cross from the left for 1-1.

The five-minute scoring spree was concluded two minutes later as a cross from the right by Thomas Meunier was met by Romelu Lukaku’s head to restore Belgium’s lead.

Karnezis twice stopped Belgium from adding to its tally in injury time.

Greece will next visit Cyprus in Nicosia on October 7.

Before kick-off there were some minor clashes between Greek and Belgian fans outside the stadium.

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