by Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (June 17th 2014)
Unusually for a side coached by Vahid Halihodžić defensive errors cost Algeria dear as the much touted Belgium negotiated a tricky assignment against Algeria, winning 2-1 in Belo Horizonte. Substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Driss Mertens turned around the first half deficit. Jan Vertonghen hauled Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli down after 25 minutes, earning a yellow card and conceding a penalty.
It was a needless challenge as Feghouli had little chance of shooting or even catching up with Napoli defender Faouzi Ghoulam’s cross from the left wing. Feghouli sent Thibaut Courtois the wrong way – it wasn’t a great penalty, but it gave Algeria a deserved lead. A lacklustre first half resulted in Marc Wilmots’ team trailing at half time. Belgium had not troubled Raïs M’Bolhi to make a serious save until Nacer Chadli’s weak effort after 43 minutes from Eden Hazard’s cross. The angle was tight.
Nabil Bentaleb was booked for a forearm jab on club colleague Moussa Dembélé in a largely uneventful first half. Wilmots changed things around in the second half. Kevin de Bruyne came into his own with 20 minutes remaining delivering an excellent cross. Fellaini’s powerful header gave M’Bolhi no chance, but a defender foolishly played Fellaini onside and failed to clear as well – the type of defending that will enrage Halihodžić.
Ten minutes later de Bruyne robbed Feghouli in midfield, perhaps unfairly, but nothing was given. De Bruyne passed to Hazard on the left wing and the Chelsea midfielder passed to Mertens, whose shot to M’Bolhi’s right gave the Algerian keeper no chance. A few minutes later Daniel van Buyten crossed for Fellaini whose header was well saved by M’Bolhi.
Belgium were far from convincing given the pre-tournament talk about perhaps the finest generation of talented players since the era of Eric Gerets, Franky van der Elst, Jan Ceulemans and a younger Enzo Scifo, but they grabbed the points.