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De Bruyne dazzles as Belgium tame Dragons

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Wales were pushed to the brink of relegation from the UEFA Nations League (UNL) Group A4 after succumbing to a Kevin De Bruyne masterclass. A 2-1 defeat in Brussels keeps the Red Devils in contention, three points adrift of the Netherlands at the top of the standings.

An eighth H2H meeting in nine years was started well by Wales, who had the better of the early exchanges against their familiar foes. The individual quality of the hosts turned the tide though, as Roberto Martínez’s men took the lead in the 11th minute. Michy Batshuayi found space in the right channel, before sliding the ball back to De Bruyne to produce an exquisite first-time finish.

The momentum was completely turned with the opening goal, leaving Wayne Hennessey trying to defend a Belgian barrage. Youri Tielemans and Batshuayi both missed big chances, De Bruyne struck the post, and Eden Hazard flashed wide before the inevitable second arrived. Again, it was the Manchester City maestro at the heart of it all, as his inch-perfect cross bisected the Welsh defence and goalkeeper, allowing Batshuayi a tap-in at the far post.

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Robert Page’s men appeared to need a miracle to find a route back into the game. Fresh from receiving a new contract to remain at the Dragons’ helm, his team-talk proved inspirational, with the visitors reducing the arrears within five minutes of the restart. Brennan Johnson’s cross found target man Kieffer Moore, who made no mistake in steering his header past Thibaut Courtois.

The Welsh fightback appeared to spark life back into the hosts as they reasserted their authority, although they were denied a penalty after a VAR review found Joe Morrell’s challenge on De Bruyne to be legal. Wales would not lie down though, with Johnson testing Courtois as the visitors searched for an unlikely equaliser. Ultimately, Belgium held firm and set up a blockbuster clash with the Netherlands to decide who progresses to the semi-finals of the UNL, while Wales’ place in the top tier now hangs by a thread.

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