With Mousa Dembele, Nacer Chadli and Romelu Lukaku proving wholly ineffective in creating chances, Marc Wilmots was forced to ring the changes, bringing on Marouanne Fellaini, Dries Mertens and Divock Origi.
And the move paid off almost immediately, Fellaini rising to nod home Kevin De Brunye’s accurate cross past the resolute Rais Mbolhi.
Belgium pressed for victory and almost inevitably, Eden Hazard was the catalyst. His excellent pass across the face of goal was met by sub Mertens, who drilled home what proved the winner.
Fellaini could have had a second late on but Mbolhi denied him with another fine save.
PRE-MATCH – No major surprises in selection for Belgium with Romelu Lukaku recovering from an ankle knock to start and Kevin De Brunye also making the starting line-up.
21’ – MBOLHI SAVE: Witzel has a crack from distance and the keeper is forced to react quickly to punch clear.
24’ – GOAL ALGERIA: Vertonghen pulls back Feghouli as he chases in Taider’s cross and it’s a penalty. The same man gets up to sent Courtois the wrong way and give Algeria a shock lead.
35’ – WITZEL SHOT: It’s another good effort from range, forcing Mbolhi to palm behind for a corner.
43’ – CHADLI CHANCE: Hazard loses his man on the left wing and crosses to Chadli but his shot is a tame one and easy for Mbolhi.
44’ – DANGEROUS CROSS HAZARD: He beats two men on the left but his dangerous cross is just too far for Lukaku.
66’ – MBOLHI SAVE: Origi has a great chance when through on goal but Mbolhi saves well with his legs.
70’ – GOAL BELGIUM: The Fellaini substitution works as he heads home after being on the pitch for only 6 minutes.
80’ – GOAL BELGIUM: Mertens latches onto an exquisite hazard pass to blast past Mbolhi.
83’ – FELLAINI DENIED: It’s almost a second but for another great save from Mbolhi.
Belgium equal a national record of remaining unbeaten in 11 consecutive competitive matches set between 1978 and 1980 and equalled between 1987 and 1990.
Belgium are unbeaten in their last five opening matches at a World Cup (W3-D2). Their last opening defeat was against Mexico (2-1) in 1986.
Divock Origi (19 years and 59 days) became the youngest Belgian player at the World Cup. Emile Mpenza was 19 years and 344 days when he played in 1998.
Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens both scored as a substitute. Before today Belgium had scored only 1 goal by substitute, Wesley Sonck vs Russia in 2002 (3-2 win).
This was the first time in WC history no player in Belgium's starting XI is playing in Belgium's domestic league.
Sofiane Feghouli scored for Algeria. It is the first WC goal for Algeria since Djamel Zidane against Northern Ireland in 1986.
Nabil Bentaleb (19y-205d) became the youngest player and the first teenager to play for Algeria at the World Cup.
Super subs save the day: Belgium looked devoid of ideas but all of that changed with the introduction of Mertens, Fellaini and Origi. Proves they have the squad and a Plan B to turn to if things go wrong. For a side with a lot of expectations on their shoulders, 'winning ugly' for lack of a better phrase could prove to be the perfect introduction to the tournament.
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dries Mertens (Belgium). Started to beat men and whip crosses in with regularity when he came on and scored the winning goal.
Belgium: Courtois 6, Alderweireld 6, Kompany 6, Vertonghen 5, Witsel 7, De Bruyne 7, Lukaku 5, Hazard 7, Van Buyten 6, Dembele 5, Chadli 5. SUBS: Fellaini 7, Mertens 8, Origi 6.
Algeria: Mbolhi 8, Bougherra 7, Ghoulam 6, Halliche 6, Feghouli 7, Medjani 6, Bentaleb 6, Soudani 7, Taider 7, Mahrez 6, Mostefa 6. SUBS: Lacen 6, Ghilas 6, Slimani 6.
THE MATCH IN A TWEET
- Sports & Recreation
- Dries Mertens
- Romelu Lukaku
- Sofiane Feghouli