Belgium struggle to 3-2 win over Norway in final warm-up

Sun Jun 5, 2016 3:32pm EDT
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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium labored to a 3-2 victory over Norway on Sunday in a final warm-up match before Euro 2016 that showed off their attacking flair and defensive frailty in near equal measure.

Belgium, second in FIFA's world rankings, looked on course for a morale-boosting victory when forward Romelu Lukaku struck inside three minutes for his fourth goal in four matches.

However defensive frailties allowed Norway to equalize after 21 minutes and take a 2-1 lead early in the second half, leaving Belgium coach Marc Wilmots to devise a plan for their opening match at the finals against Italy on June 13.

The first lapse came midway through a first period that Belgium dominated when midfielder Radja Nainggolan was hustled off the ball by Stefan Johansen and Joshua King beat goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to score off the inside of the post.

Three minutes after the break Norway's Veton Berisha cut in from the right, drifted across the defense and scored.

The visitors seemed to tire in the final quarter, leaving gaps in their defense and allowing Belgium winger Eden Hazard to head home Kevin De Bruyne's cross in the 70th and substitute Laurent Ciman to do the same three minutes later from a corner.

It was his first goal for Belgium.

Until then Norway, who lost to Hungary in the playoffs for Euro 2016, offered the sort of tight defense Belgium can expect in Group E, which also features Sweden and Ireland.

Belgium are facing a crisis in defense, with captain Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Lombaerts, Dedryck Boyata and Bjorn Engels all ruled out of the tournament in France with injuries.   Continued...

Football Soccer - Belgium v Norway - International Friendly - Brussels, Belgium - 5/06/16. Belgium's Eden Hazard in action with Norway's Stefan Johansen (R).  REUTERS/Francois Lenoir