Kevin De Bruyne scored one and set up the other as Belgium benefited from a strong first-half performance to beat Wales 2-1 at the King Baudouin Stadium on Thursday.
Wales were fortunate not to be 2-0 down at the break after goals from De Bruyne and Michy Batshuayi and several other chances spurned by the hosts, but they halved the deficit early in the second period when Kieffer Moore headed home. close up.
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Second-placed Belgium have 10 points from five matches and travel to Amsterdam on Sunday. They need to win by three goals to move ahead of group-topping Netherlands on 13 points and into next year’s Nations League semi-finals.
The home side gave 65 minutes to playmaker Eden Hazard, who will be looking to prove his form and fitness ahead of the World Cup in Qatar in November.
Gareth Bale came off the bench for Wales in the final half-hour in a positive sign for manager Rob Page ahead of Sunday’s home game with Poland as they bid to avoid relegation from the pool. They are currently one point at the bottom.
“I think we fully deserved to win, we dominated the first half and created a lot of chances,” De Bruyne told S4C. “Wales played man to man so there were more chances in the first half.
“Then we started the second half badly, we had to keep the ball because Wales played so deep and wait for the right moments.”
Belgium played superbly in the opening period as the interplay focused on the mercurial talent of De Bruyne.
When he scored after 10 minutes, it stretched Belgium’s incredible scoring streak to 49 games as France were last seen out of the 2018 World Cup semi-finals in St. Petersburg.
Batshuayi picked up De Bruyne on the edge of the box and his side-footed finish beat Wayne Hennessey in the Wales goal.
De Bruyne then hit the post with a shot from a similar position, before turning to the supporter as his whipped cross set up Batshuayi to tap over.
To their credit, Wales appeared more organized in the second half and when Belgium took their foot off the pedal they seized the moment.
They pulled a goal back five minutes after the break when Brennan Johnson’s lively trickery down the right saw Moore’s cross slip past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The hosts were later awarded a penalty for Joe Morrell’s challenge on De Bruyne, but a review by the video assistant referee showed the defender had clearly touched the ball and the decision was overturned.
Belgium held on for the win, but not before coach Roberto Martinez was shown a red card for holding the ball on the edge long into added time.
“It was always going to be a tough game. They were very good tonight,” Moore told BBC Radio Wales. “We’ll come away not so disappointed – we’ll take the positives out of it and go again on Sunday.
“The win keeps us in the group so we’ll be fully focused on Poland. I think we’re in a good place, it’s our last home game before we go to the World Cup so if we can get away that will be great.”