Belgium coach Marc Wilmots was under pressure following defeat by Italy, but Romelu Lukaku delivered with a second half double as Ireland crumbled in Bordeaux.
Romelu Lukaku scored a second half brace as Belgium got their Euro 2016 campaign off the mark with a convincing 3-0 win over a disappointing Ireland in Bordeaux.
Belgium coach Marc Wilmots had been under pressure for his team selection and the poor performance against Italy, but his decision to drop Marouane Fellaini, Radja Nainggolan and Laurent Ciman paid off as his team answered their critics in emphatic style.
A tepid first half with few chances for both sides suggested the game could be won by a single goal, but Belgium turned on the style in the second half, with Lukaku finding the net three minutes after the restart.
With Ireland on the ropes, Axel Witsel capped a lung-busting run from midfield to bury his header beyond Darren Randolph in the Irish goal, and effectively putting the game out of reach for Martin O’Neill’s side.
Ireland showed occasional glimpses of what they’re capable of, particularly on the counter-attack, but it was ultimately a below par display, and now they need to beat Italy in their final game to have a chance of progressing.
O’Neill urged his side to push forward for a route back into the game, but were caught on the break as they poured bodies forward. Lukaku finished off the swift break to make it 3-0 and extinguish any hopes of an Ireland fightback.
While Belgium failed to reach the standards set by Spain against Turkey on Friday night, the 3-0 result will fill Wilmots’ side with confidence ahead of their final group game against Sweden on Wednesday, with Belgium likely to need at least a point to be certain of progressing to the last 16.