Algeria fails to hold on to an early strike
Super subs Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens rescued World Cup dark horses Belgium in a come from behind 2-1 win over Algeria on Tuesday.
Algeria had taken a 25th-minute lead from a penalty by Sofiane Feghouli after he had been hauled down by Jan Vertonghen. But Fellaini, who endured a miserable, goalless season with Manchester United, levelled with a powerful header in the 70th minute.
Ten minutes later, Mertens buried the second goal to give Belgium a winning start in Group H which also includes Russia and South Korea.
Algeria stunned the fancied Belgians after Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen wrestled livewire Valencia striker Sofiane Feghouli to the ground.
Vertonghen was yellow-carded while Feghouli held his nerve to tuck a confident penalty beyond Thibaut Courtois in the Belgium goal.
It was Algeria’s first World Cup goal since 1986 and conjured up memories of its famous 1982 win over West Germany.
Belgium was poor in the first half and had to wait until the end of the first half for its first serious attempt on goal when Nacer Chadli was put clean through by Eden Hazard. But Chadli’s effort was well-saved by Rais M’bolhi.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots, who has never lost a competitive fixture as national team coach, took off the sluggish Romelu Lukaku.
On came Divock Origi and then Fellaini and the more muscular approach paid off.
Fellaini headed in a pinpoint cross from Kevin De Bruyne’s and 10 minutes later it was 2-1 as Mertens was left in too much space by the tiring Algerians and the Napoli man drove the ball home.
Another Fellaini header was tipped over by M’bolhi as Belgium finished the strongest.
“It was difficult for us at the beginning. It required a lot of patience. But we wanted three points and we got three points,” Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said after the game.
“It was good to start the tournament with a victory,” added Martens.
“It was a good game but it became more difficult for us as it went on,” Feghouli said.