BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, (Reuters) – Much-fancied Belgium fought back from a goal down to score twice in the final 20 minutes and earn a hard-fought 2-1 victory over gutsy Algeria in their World Cup Group H opener yesterday.
Substitutes Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens turned the game around after Algeria playmaker Sofiane Feghouli had given them a 25th minute lead with a penalty at the Mineirao stadium.
Belgium, back at the World Cup after a 12-year absence, enjoyed the majority of possession but struggled to break down a disciplined two-line Algerian defence which kept Eden Hazard and forward Romelu Lukaku well in check.
The Algerians, with El Arabi Soudani surprisingly in the starting lineup for key forward Islam Slimani, posed little threat up front with winger Riyad Mahrez firing well wide in their only foray in the Belgian box early in the game.
They were far more successful the second time they ventured forward when left back Jan Vertonghen brought down Feghouli after a fine cross from Faouzi Ghoulam.
Feghouli calmly fired past keeper Thibaut Courtois to end his country’s 28-year wait for a World Cup goal and send the green-white-clad Algerian fans delirious.
Belgium’s Axel Witsel tried his luck with a couple of long-range shots but the Red Devils looked nothing like the menacing team that qualified unbeaten for the tournament.