Belgium beat Romania 2-0 to get Euro 2024 campaign on track

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COLOGNE, Germany (AP) — Kevin De Bruyne scored and Belgium got their European Championship campaign up and running after beating Romania 2-0 on Saturday.

The No. 3-ranked Belgians shook off the shock of losing to Slovakia in their opening game by responding with a dominant performance in front of the Belgium royal family at Cologne Stadium.

Youri Tielemans gave them a flying start with a goal from the edge of the area in the second minute.

De Bruyne effectively killed the game off in the 80th after converting direct from Belgium goalkeeper Koen Casteels’ long kick.

All four teams in Group E have three points, meaning there is all to play for in the final round of games on Wednesday.

While Belgium won, there was more frustration for Romelu Lukaku, who had a third goal ruled out by VAR at these Euros.

Still, he was at the center of his team’s great start when laying the ball off for Tielemans to score with a low drive from the edge of the box.

It was just what Belgium needed after the Slovakia stunner, which raised the prospect of another early exit from a major tournament after being eliminated at the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.

The format of the Euros, in which the four best third-place teams advance, leaves more room for error. But with memories of Qatar still fresh, another defeat would have broken the confidence of a team criticized for failing to live up to expectations in the past.

Tielemans’ goal seemed to lift the pressure, and Belgium ruled the rest of the half with 67% of possession.

Lukaku thought he scored after the break, but VAR said he strayed offside before firing past Romania keeper Florin Nita.

The longer the game went on without Belgium scoring a second, the more the tension rose.

Dennis Man could have evened the score when running through on goal, but was denied by Casteels.

The keeper then turned provider with a long punt upfield, which De Bruyne raced on to and fired home.

Under former Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Portugal advanced to the knockout phase after a 3-0 win against Turkey in Group F. Georgia picked up their first ever point at a major tournament after  drawing the Czech Republic 1-1 and still have hopes of advancing.