17 June 2014

Algeria: Belgium Bounce Back to Beat Algeria

Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images-Stanbic
Algeria fans during the African Nations Cup.

Algeria let a second half lead slip to lose 2-1 to Belgium in their World Cup Group H opener in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday.

It was tough on the north African side, who looked good value for a win when Sofiane Feghouli scored a first half penalty.

They held on until the final 20 minutes, but wilted in the closing stages as Marouane Fellaini and Dries Martens dragged the European side in front.

Belgium had much of the possession, but Algeria's organised play and high work-rate in defence kept them at bay for much of the match. However, in the end two pieces of quality finishing, very different in their construction, gave this much-vaunted Belgium side the win.

After a quiet start, it was Algeria who scored first as Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen pulled back Feghouli in the penalty area for a blatant penalty that referee Marco Rodríguez had no hesitation in awarding.

Feghouli comfortably converted the spot kick to score Algeria's first World Cup finals goals in 28 years.

Belgium's best chance of the half fell late on as Eden Hazard played in Nacer Chadli, but the Tottenham Hotspur man could not manufacture a shot to trouble Raïs M'Bolhi in the Algeria goal.

The African side were happier to soak up the pressure in the second half, rather holding onto the lead than looking for a second with any real conviction.

It was always going to be a dangerous game, inviting pressure from this talented Belgian side, but it worked for 25 minutes until Algeria's good fortune finally ran out.

Giant Manchester United midfielder Fellaini had been brought on to add some height to the Belgian frontline and he reacted brilliantly to a Kevin de Bruyne centre that he guided past M'Bolhi and into the net.

From there it seemed there would only be one winner as Belgium had the momentum, and Algeria doggedly tried to cling on to what was now one point instead of three.

In the end they would come away with zero, while Belgium showed why they are so highly-rated going into this tournament, breaking quickly from their own penalty-box to score a second.

Hazard put Martens into space on the right-hand side of the penalty box and he blasted the ball home with 10 minutes remaining to claim the win for his side.

Indeed, it was Belgium who still looked the more likely after that, and might have won more handsomely but for an excellent save from M'Bolhi as Fellaini powered another header goalwards.

All is not lost for Algeria with Russia and South Korea to come in the pool. Their next outing is against the latter in Porto Alegre on Sunday.

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