Lukaku salvages point for Belgium in Prague

Romelu Lukaku's second-half strike helped Belgium salvaged a 1-1 draw against the Czech Republic on Saturday evening. Both teams missed key players due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Nevertheless, it was an entertaining World Cup qualifier that saw both sides denied by the woodwork a several times.

Lukas Provod put the Czechs 1-0 up with his first international goal just after the half-time break. Provod gathered the ball in space and sent a long-range, right-footed strike past Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois.

However, Big Rom was on hand to save Belgium’s blushes. Lukaku levelled in the 60th minute when he turned defender Ondrej Celustka and sent a shot that deflected off the keeper's right leg into the net. Both sides continued to attack in search of a winner with Kevin De Bruyne's shot from the edge of the box hitting the woodwork in the 70th minute and Czech defender Jan Boril doing the same in the 84th minute when a weak clearance fell to him just inside the penalty area.

Belgium had more possession but the home side had more shots and had a chance to win in stoppage time when a Tomas Soucek header towards the far post was turned away by a defender.

The Czechs also hit the woodwork in the first half when Michael Krmencik nearly gave the hosts a dream start after latching onto a Vladimir Coufal pass down the right flank and firing a left-footed drive that smacked the post.

Minutes later Belgium were denied after Leander Dendoncker latched onto a loose ball in the box and sent a shot that Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik stopped with a sprawling one-handed save.

The draw has Belgium and the Czechs level on four points at the top of Group E after two games.

Martinez "I don't think we've been in our normal level."

Speaking after the match the Belgian national team coach Roberto Martinez told journalists that our national team had fallen below their usual high standards.

 "We obviously faced a team that has got a lot of momentum, as the team is in a really good, positive winning feeling," he said. "I don't think we've been in our normal level."    

“We were not our normal selves, We wasted too much and we played football against a team that had momentum.

“The Czech Republic are in a good period, they scored six times last Wednesday, which something you don't see that often anymore in today's football,” he said, referring to the Czech’s opening group 6-2 win at Latvia.

 “It is a modern team full of confidence. They played full of energy and with good pressing. I have to congratulate them on their performance ”

Martinez said weakness shown by his own team, in an exciting match in which the Czechs came close to snatching victory late on, was essential learning ahead of the European Championship in mid-year.

“It's important that we were tested a few months before the Euros and I’m satisfied with the response my team has shown.

“I saw resilience and character. We really wanted to come back after going behind. Concentration returned, we became dangerous again. I would like to emphasise that we did not accept that we could lose.”

“It is important that we refresh the team a bit. We play three games in six days, that's a lot. We will look at it individually. But changes will come,” Martínez added

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