Belgium stunned by Slovakia 1-0 with VAR denying Lukaku twice at Euro 2024 | Football News - Hindustan Times
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Belgium stunned by Slovakia 1-0 with VAR denying Lukaku twice at Euro 2024

AP |
Jun 18, 2024 06:31 AM IST

Slovakia struck in the seventh minute through Ivan Schranz, then survived a string of misses by Lukaku, whose two second-half goals were overturned.

Two Romelu Lukaku goals were ruled out by video review and Belgium fell to a stunning 1-0 loss to Slovakia in wild Group E at the European Championship on Monday.

Euro 2024 - Slovakia players celebrate after beating Belgium in a Group E match (REUTERS)
Euro 2024 - Slovakia players celebrate after beating Belgium in a Group E match (REUTERS)

Slovakia struck in the seventh minute through forward Ivan Schranz then survived a string of misses by Belgium record scorer Lukaku, whose two second-half goals were overturned after first being given by the match officials, and all that playmaker Kevin De Bruyne could create.

Slovakia’s deserved win also was preserved by defender Dávid Hancko's brave goal-line block that left him sprawled in the netting with a face injury inflicted by a teammate’s knee.

At the final whistle, the Slovakia squad and staff danced in front of their fans in the 45,181 crowd at the Waldstadion as their choice of victory music, the modern soccer anthem “Freed From Desire,” boomed out.

“This win means a lot not just for me but the whole Slovak nation," said midfielder Stanislav Lobotka who was named player of the game. "Maybe not everyone has believed in us."

Hancko returned to play on after stopping substitute Johan Bakayoko’s close-range shot in the 62nd, soon after Lukaku’s first ‘goal’ was overturned when a video review spotted an offside.

The second VAR intervention in the 86th was more open to debate and judged that Loïs Openda handled the ball before his decisive pass to Lukaku for a powerful shot.

“I want to be at least a good, fair loser,” Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco said about the match officials, who initially let the goal stand both times. "We trust these guys. We just have to accept it.”

Lukaku set a competition record of 14 goals in a qualifying group last year, and has a record 85 for Belgium, yet somehow failed to score in a wasteful first half including twice even before Slovakia led.

“He’s a top-class player, a great character,” Tedesco said. “He’s been playing for Belgium for a long time and he knows very well how to score goals.”

The drama in Frankfurt came hours after Romania upended predictions by outclassing Ukraine 3-0 in Munich.

Belgium fell to a first loss in 15 games under Tedesco and faces Romania in the Saturday evening game in Cologne.

Slovakia has one day less to prepare for facing Ukraine in Duesseldorf on Friday.

The upset was on after an error in defense by De Bruyne’s Manchester City teammate Jérémy Doku, who was pressed by opponents after a throw-in to him near his own corner flag,

Doku sent a reckless pass across his own penalty area that Schranz flicked back for Juraj Kucka to shoot. Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels saved but pushed the ball up toward Schranz for a volleyed shot from a tight angle.

Slovakia pressing was energetic on Belgium’s makeshift defense despite fielding two 37-year-olds in outfield positions. That’s a Euros record that can be broken on Tuesday if Portugal picks Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe.

Veterans Kucka and Peter Pekarík have now started all eight games Slovakia has ever played in the European finals tournament since first qualifying for the 2016 edition.

“Kucka, he is having an Indian summer in his career and I’m delighted with that,” Slovakia coach Francesco Calzona said in translated comments, while praising Pekarík as ”a consummate professional."

Kucka and Pekarik also were in the 2010 World Cup squad that beat and eliminated defending champion Italy in the group stage, but this was Slovakia’s finest moment at the Euros and a triumph for its Italian coach.

Belgium has gone three straight tournament games without scoring. An unexpected quick exit at the 2022 World Cup came after a 2-0 loss to Morocco and a 0-0 draw with Croatia, when Belgium would have advanced instead from the group if Lukaku had taken a gilt-edged late chance.

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