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Belgium 1 Japan 0: Lukaku breaks scoring record with second-half winner

14 November 2017 22:48

Romelu Lukaku became Belgium's outright record scorer with the only goal in an uninspired 1-0 friendly win over Japan in Bruges.

The Manchester United striker had pulled level with Bernard Voorhoof and Paul Van Himst on 30 goals after his double in Friday's pulsating 3-3 draw with Mexico.

And he took his tally to 31 Belgium strikes with 18 minutes remaining against Japan on Tuesday, heading in from almost on the line after a superb run and cross from Nacer Chadli.

Before his historic goal, it had been a frustrating night for the 24-year-old, who was comfortably shackled by a stubborn Japan defence.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez will be pleased with his side's improved defensive display, but is likely to be concerned by the struggles of his star-studded attack against a side that had conceded six goals in their last two games against Haiti and Brazil.

Belgium carved out the first sight of goal and unsurprisingly it fell to Kevin De Bruyne, who has been in sparkling form for Manchester City this season. The midfielder carried the ball fully 40 yards into the Japan penalty area, but his low effort was straight at Eiji Kawashima.

Lukaku was then denied by the Japan goalkeeper, who got down well to smother his close-range effort after Thorgan Hazard's cross had been deflected into his path.

The hosts continued to look menacing going forward and De Bruyne was once again denied by Kawashima, this time the goalkeeper pushing away the 26-year-old's typically measured effort from the edge of the area.

Japan struggled to impose themselves in the early stages, but could have taken the lead twice before the break as Yuya Osako and Maya Yoshida both headed narrowly over Simon Mignolet's crossbar from good positions.

The visitors appeared to come out for the second half with renewed vigour as Kazuki Nagasawa drilled a shot just over from outside the area.

Lukaku then saw a goalbound effort deflect off target at the other end, but he finally had his moment in the spotlight just as it looked like Belgium would suffer an evening of frustration.

West Brom winger Chadli did brilliantly to skip past a number of Japan defenders and clip a teasing cross into the box, where Lukaku had the simple task of heading in from just a yard out. 

Mignolet was twice called into action in the final 10 minutes to preserve Belgium's lead, getting down smartly to push away shots from substitutes Takashi Inui and Kenyu Sugimoto.
 
Hazard came close to adding a second for Belgium in the final moments, but it was perhaps fitting that Lukaku's landmark goal remained the game's only one.

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