LEUVEN, Belgium (AP) — Striker Michy Batshuayi scored twice Wednesday to help a makeshift Belgium side come from behind to beat Switzerland 2-1 in a friendly game.
The Crystal Palace forward showed clinical efficiency to convert Belgium’s two best chances in the second half after Switzerland deservedly took the lead with an early goal that rewarded its intense pressing.
Ahead of upcoming Nations League matches against England and Denmark, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez played mostly his backups and handed debuts to youngsters Dodi Lukebakio, Hannes Delcroix and Charles De Ketelaere.
Regular starters Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku were rested. FIFA’s top-ranked team was also without Real Madrid star Eden Hazard, who remained quarantined in Spain following a positive COVID-19 test.
“There were a lot new players today and the match was very physical,” Batshuayi said. “It feels good to win this kind of matches, it was good test for the newbies, and for me too.”
Switzerland pressed high in the early stages and took the lead in the 12th minute following a defensive error from Sebastiaan Bornauw, who failed to control a long ball and headed it back into the path of Admir Mehmedi. The Switzerland forward moved into the area unmarked and fired a powerful shot past ‘keeper Simon Mignolet.
Bereft of attacking inspiration, the hosts struggled throughout the first half and would have conceded a second goal if not for Mignolet’s save in the 27th, when Mehmedi had another chance from close range after Belgium gave the ball away close to its box.
Youri Tielemans came on after the interval and the Leicester midfielder won the ball high in Switzerland’s camp in the 53rd minute and set up Batshuayi, who converted his first chance with a left-foot shot after dribbling past a defender.
The hosts played more aggressively in the second half but did not create much while Switzerland continued to threaten with good attacking combinations. Right back Silvan Widmer came close soon after the hour-mark when he forced Mignolet to a diving save with a precise shot.
Belgium finally found a winner after a move ignited down the left flank by Lukebakio, who got past his marker and crossed at the far post. Thomas Foket connected with the ball and put it back in the box for Batshuayi. The striker received the ball with his back to the goal, turned around and and slammed it into the net in the 70th.
The game was played in the city of Leuven without fans because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Last in its group, Switzerland hosts Spain then Ukraine in its next Nations League games.
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