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Published: 16:03 | 18/6/16

Belgium too good for Republic of Ireland

Lukaku double helps Belgium to 3-0 victory

The Republic of Ireland's Euro 2016 hopes hang by a thread as they went down 3-0 to Belgium at a packed out Nouveau Stade in Bordeaux.

After a goalless first half, an Axel Witsel header sandwiched between a brace from Romelu Lukaku gave Belgium a deserved victory which re-ignites their hopes of making the knock-out stages and leaves Martin O'Neill's side probably needing to beat Italy in their final game in Lille next Wednesday to have a realistic chance of progressing.

Belgium were the better side from the start and enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges. However, the Irish defence dealt with any threat comfortably enough in the opening quarter of an hour, although Toby Alderweireld headed a Kevin De Bruyne corner narrowly off target before the Manchester City star swung in a dangerous free-kick from the left which evaded everyone but drifted just wide of the far post.

Eden Hazard then blazed over from ten yards as the Irish defence struggled to clear another dangerous De Bruyne delivery into the penalty area as Belgium continued to dominate.

At the other end, a poor touch from Wes Hoolahan allowed Alderweireld to make a crucial challenge just outside the penalty area as Ireland threatened.

Belgium had the ball in the net on 25 minutes after Irish goalkeeper Darren Randolph superbly tipped Yannick Carasco's header onto the crossbar. Hazard headed in the rebound, but the flag had been raised for an earlier offside.

Ireland were struggling to make any impact in midfield and were forced to play long balls from the back towards lone striker Shane Long who was left isolated for long spells.

A promising run from Jeff Hendrick just after the half hour mark came to nothing as his attempted lay-off to Long lacked conviction and was easily intercepted by Alderweireld.

Belgium continued to threaten and Hoolahan was forced to head Alderweireld's effort off the line five minutes before the break as the Tottenham defender climbed above the Irish defence to meet another dangerous De Bruyne corner, but Marc Wilmots' side were unable to find a way through as the first half ended scoreless.

But Belgium were ahead within three minutes of the restart.

After breaking quickly from the back, the ball found its way to De Bruyne on the right who evaded Robbie Brady's lunging tackle before finding Lukaku who coolly slotted the ball beyond Randolph from the edge of the penalty area.

Ireland looked to hit back and were enjoying a decent spell when Witsel doubled the advantage just after the hour mark with a powerful header from Thomas Meunier's cross. Randolph got a hand to it but was unable to keep it out.

The green army's Euro dream was all but extinguished 20 minutes from time as Lukaku slotted his second with a near exact replica of his opener.

With the Irish defence caught out of position up field, Belgium broke quickly as Hazard skipped past Ciaran Clark before finding Lukaku who had the simple task of slotting the ball beyond Randolph's despairing dive.

Ireland worked hard to get what could have proven a crucial goal, but the closest they came was when subsitute Aiden McGeady headed wide from ten yards as Belgium held on for a comfortable and much deserved win.

By: Kieran O'Daly

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