Romelu Lukaku netted twice as Belgium comfortably saw off World Cup newcomers Panama in the Group G opener.
The game kicked off under the sunny skies of Sochi as Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne created the first chance for Belgium within the opening minute. He played a well-weighted through ball to Carrasco down the left, who pulled back for Lukaku. The striker couldn’t match the build-up with his finish.
Belgium struggle in first half
As expected, Belgium dominated all early possession in the game as Panama looked to defend with all 11 men behind the ball. The small country from Central America looked nervous at the back as efforts from Carrasco and Dries Mertens forced saves from Panama number one Jaime Penedo.
A dangerous ball from De Bruyne fizzed across the six-yard box, only for Panama skipper Roman Torres to get a touch sending the ball crashing out for a corner instead of a tap-in for Lukaku.
The closing 15 minutes to the half saw very few chances in a tight affair as Panama began to find confidence in there play enjoying possession in the Belgium half.
A chance for Eden Hazard nearly ended in a goal as he worked his way into the box with some neat touches before forcing a good save out of Penedo, with Hazard probably feeling he could have done better.
The first effort of note for Panama came from midfielder Armando Cooper who blazed over the bar from 25 yards out.
A frustrating first half for the Belgians came to a close goalless, with the Panama supporters really enjoying their first experiences of a World Cup.
Romelu Lukaku continues form
It only took the Belgians until the second minute of the second half to find the game’s opening goal.
A header out by a Panama defender fell to Serie A star Mertens who rocketed a volley from the corner of the 18 years box. The dipping shot nestled into the back of the net. Penedo could only watch.
The goal saw the intensity of the game increase. De Bruyne came close, with a fizzling free kick falling just wide of the post. Murillo found himself one on one with Courtois who saved the defender’s shot from close range.
Panama players began to get frustrated as the referee branded five bookings to the side within the hour mark.
With 20 minutes to go, Belgium doubled their lead through Lukaku.
Kevin De Bruyne’s exquisite cross found the head of Lukaku who headed his 37th international goal from six yards.
As Panama lost steam, the Belgians ploughed on and Lukaku added a third with 15 minutes to go after a well-timed pass from Hazard. The Manchester United forward chipped Panama’s Penedo, leaving the goalkeeper helpless.
The last ten minutes saw a very strong Belgium side comfortably see out the game. Roberto Martinez experienced his first World Cup win at the first attempt.
Panama next come up against England on Sunday 24th June at 1pm, as Belgium take on Tunisia on Saturday 23rd at 3pm.