Hazard's brace inspires Belgium to a fine victory over Russia in the EURO 2020 Qualifiers
Eden Hazard scored twice as Belgium recovered from a blunder by Thibaut Courtois to beat Russia 3-1 Thursday and start its European Championship qualifying campaign on a high.
The counter-attacking football that was a distinct feature of Belgium's World Cup campaign proved key in opening the scoring as Michy Batshuayi crossed from the left for Timothy Castagne, who laid off for Tielemans to rifle into the bottom-left corner.
However, just under two minutes later Russia levelled in bizarre fashion as Courtois' disappointing season continued. The Real Madrid goalkeeper received Jan Vertonghen's backpass under no pressure but took too many touches and, being closed down by Artem Dzyuba, played the ball straight to Cheryshev, the Valencia winger making no mistake in skipping over Courtois and converting from a tight angle.
Belgium's pace and creativity strained the Russian defence and Batshuayi saw an effort cleared off the line as Belgium sought to restore its advantage, and was rewarded when Hazard burst into the penalty area and was tripped by Yuri Zhirkov's trailing leg. Hazard hit the resulting 45th-minute spot kick hard and low to give Russia's Brazil-born goalkeeper Guilherme no chance.
The left-hand post denied Batshuayi a deserved goal 12 minutes from time but he was involved as Hazard made it 3-1, teeing up his team-mate to fire in following Dries Mertens' right-wing cross.
As Russia pushed forward late on, Belgium took advantage of space at the back and Michy Batshuayi hit the post in the 79th.
Hazard made it 3-1 from close range in the 88th after he swept the ball into the corner of the net to grab his second and seal the victory. Russia finished with 10 men when Monaco midfielder Alexander Golovin received a second yellow card for kicking out at Tielemans, meaning he will now be suspended for the game against Kazakhstan.
Belgium has won six of eight games since the loss to France in the World Cup semifinals.
The World Cup semi-finalists are in Cyprus for their next qualifier on Sunday. Russia travel to neighbours Kazakhstan, who embarrassed Scotland 3-0 earlier.
Elsewhere in Group I, Cyprus thrashed fellow minnows San Marino 5-0.