Belgium beat Azerbaijan 4-1 on Tuesday to move into second place in Euro 2012 qualifying Group A.
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First half goals from Jan Vertonghen, Timmy Simons from the penalty spot, and Nacer Chadli put Belgium in control and Jelle Vossen added a fourth after the break. Ruslan Abushev got a fleeting equalizer for Azerbaijan in the 16th minute.
The win gave Belgium 10 points from six games. Germany leads the group with 15 points from five games, with third-place Turkey on nine points, also with a game in hand on Belgium. Azerbaijan remain fifth in the six-nation group with three points.
After a string of disappointing results, a 2-0 victory in Austria on Friday and Tuesday’s win have put Belgium back in contention for next year’s finals in Poland and Ukraine.
With some 35,000 fans in the stands of the King Baudouin Stadium, Belgium got a lucky break in the 12th minute when Vertonghen’s long-range free kick was deflected twice by defenders and past goalie Kamran Agayev. Even though Abushev equalized a few minutes later, heading home from a corner, Belgium continued to dominate.
Simons restored Belgium’s lead from the penalty spot after Rail Melikov handled a high cross. Belgium pounded the Azeri defense and Chadli headed in from close range on the stroke of halftime.
The pace quickly went down in the second half, but the home side remained in control and could afford to keep star playmaker Eden Hazard on the bench for the first hour.
Belgium hosts Turkey next on June 3 in a match which could be decisie for second place in the group and a place in the playoffs.
”It is going to be the match of the year,” said defender Nicolas Lombaerts.
Belgium: Simon Mignolet, Laurent Ciman, Nicolas Lombaerts, Daniel Van Buyten (80, Jelle Van Damme), Steven Defour (89, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe), Timmy Simons, Jan Vertonghen, Axel Witsel, Nacer Chadli, Moussa Dembele (63, Eden Hazard), Jelle Vossen
Azerbeidzjan: Kamran Agayev, Ruslan Abushev, Volodimir Levin, Rail Melikov, Rashad Sadygov, Rahid Amirguliyev, Aleksandr Chertoganov, Elvin Mammadov (78, Javid Huseynov), Mohir Shukurov, Rauf Aliyev, Vagif Javadov (76, Vugar Nadyrov).