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Euro 2024 – Belgium 0-1 Slovakia: Romelu Lukaku denied twice by VAR as Red Devils suffer shock defeat in Group E opener – Sky Sports

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Report from Euro 2024 as Slovakia stunned Belgium to claim victory in Group E opener; Romelu Lukaku controversially twice denied equalisers after VAR review; Ivan Schranz scored the only goal of the game
By Laura Hunter
Tuesday 18 June 2024 01:30, UK
Much-fancied Belgium experienced a disappointing start to their Euro 2024 campaign after losing out to lower-ranked Slovakia 1-0 in their Group E opener.
Ivan Schranz was Slovakia’s hero, capitalising on a Jeremy Doku error and collecting the deflection from Juraj Kucka’s strike, before guiding the ball expertly into the far corner from a tight angle – a move that survived extensive VAR review.
Romelu Lukaku was not quite so lucky. Twice Belgium’s leading scorer had the ball in the back of the net in the second period, and twice VAR intervened to chalk goals off.
The No 9, attempting to atone for a wasteful first half, was ruled a toe offside when slamming home Amadou Onana’s cross in the 56th minute, before rounding off a smart move to plant Lois Openda’s cross beyond Martin Dubravka in the final minute of the 90.
At first glance there looked to be very little wrong with the latter, but VAR was quick to spot the ball inadvertently glancing off Openda’s hand in the build-up, and recommended referee Halil Umut Meler take a second look. He did, and duly accepted the advice of the video official, controversially denying Lukaku once more.
Domenico Tedesco’s side, flat and frustrating for the most part, still created four ‘big chances’ (their most in a Euros game since 1980 vs Spain), but were unable to breach stubborn Slovakia, who top Group E alongside Romania.
Slovakia now face Ukraine on Friday knowing another win would send them into the last 16.
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Sky Sport’s Laura Hunter:
Perhaps Belgium are cursed. Perhaps unlucky. Or maybe this ‘golden generation’ simply isn’t as good as the hype – or third-place FIFA ranking – suggests. Whatever the intricacy or issue, they don’t seem to perform as predicted on the big stage.
Lukaku was wasteful, Kevin de Bruyne off-colour, Leandro Trossard ineffective. All over the pitch, in fact, Domenico Tedesco’s side underwhelmed, and that’s despite creating four ‘big chances’ and an xG of 1.91.
Game by game, the shine is flaking off what remains of Belgium’s reputation as one of Europe’s stellar sides. This is a team of individuals, far from a comprehensive unit of tournament winners.
And yet, there was something unjust about their opening game defeat. For all the obvious shortcomings, Lukaku did have the ball in the back of the net twice. The first was ruled offside, and so little argument can be made.
The second decision, however, jarred far more. This is the type of officiating that has drawn suspicion and skepticism in the Premier League, deemed by many as ‘re-refereeing’ – there is justification for both sides.
Lois Openda did handle the ball, but does that mean it’s handball? The rule is subjective, of course, but many believe this brand of VAR intervention to be a stain on the game. Jury’s out.
Either way, Belgium must improve if they are to avoid a repeat of Euro 2022, crashing out at the competition’s group stage.
Belgium head coach Domenico Tedesco: “The only thing that we didn’t do well was taking chances. We had plenty. It’s part of the game. Of course the players were disappointed.
“We had many chances, we pressed high. Normally you don’t lose this game. It hurts.”
Speaking about two VAR decisions to deny Belgium an equaliser, he added: “I want to be a fair loser – we trust the referees.”
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© 2024 Sky UK

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