Jason Denayer and Dries Mertens were on target as Belgium stretched their winning streak to 11 games with a 2-0 victory at Denmark in their Nations League opener.
Denmark entered Saturday’s Group A2 opener unbeaten in 15 matches since September 2018 but were undone at the Parken Stadium by goals in either half.
Denayer profited from some slack defending to convert Mertens’ corner inside nine minutes and the hosts, who will face Belgium in next year’s rescheduled Euro 2020, never truly recovered.
Mertens made certain of the win 14 minutes from time as Belgium – now beaten in just two of their last 43 matches – moved level on points with England after the first round of fixtures.
Jason Denayer’s first goal for Belgium #NationsLeague pic.twitter.com/dSmI78TA1m
— UEFA Nations League (@EURO2020) September 5, 2020
Yannick Carrasco nearly caught out Kasper Schmeichel inside the opening eight minutes, the Denmark keeper managing to tip a left-sided free-kick onto the crossbar.
From the subsequent corner, however, Mertens crossed into the six-yard box and Denayer got in front of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg to steer away from Schmeichel for his first international goal.
Belgium were without a number of key players and one of their back-ups, Club Brugge keeper Simon Mignolet, did well to tip over Christian Eriksen’s long-range drive 25 minutes in.
Kasper Hjulmand’s side had won their last four home games, scoring 16 goals in the process, but struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities against a resolute Belgium side.
The otherwise quiet Romelu Lukaku was denied a penalty after being fouled by Andreas Christensen in the box, but the loose ball fell to Mertens to side-foot home and make certain of the three points.
We start our #NationsLeague campaign with 3 points! #DENBEL #COMEONBELGIUM pic.twitter.com/cdvJ6THgcU
— Belgian Red Devils (@BelRedDevils) September 5, 2020
What does it mean? Belgium run goes on
Belgium showed again in Copenhagen just why they are the top-ranked international side in the world as they stretched their winning run.
They are now level on points with England at the top of the Group A2 standings following the Three Lions’ dramatic 1-0 win over Iceland, who are on zero points with Denmark.
Mertens steps up
Belgium were without key creator Kevin De Bruyne, who announced the birth of his third child on social media during the match, while Eden Hazard remained on the bench.
Mertens more than made up for the duo’s absence, though, by sending in a dangerous delivery for the opening goal and then adding his name to the scoresheet with a good finish late on.
Hojbjerg caught napping
Big things are expected of Hojbjerg at Tottenham this coming season following his arrival from Southampton last month, but he failed to track his man for Denayer’s opener here.
The holding midfielder allowed Denayer to get in front of him and flick Mertens’ delivery into the far corner, with that proving to be a key moment in the match so early on.
Denmark face England in Copenhagen on Tuesday, the same day that Belgium play host to Iceland in their second Group A2 outing.