Eden Hazard scored twice as Belgium recovered from a blunder by Thibaut Courtois to beat Russia 3-1 Thursday and start its European Championship qualifying campaign on a high.
The World Cup semifinalist took the lead in the 14th minute thanks to Youri Tielemans’ low strike from the edge of the area, but Courtois allowed Russia to level two minutes later.
The Real Madrid goalkeeper was caught in possession by Russia forward Artyom Dzyuba and hastily passed the ball straight to Denis Cheryshev, who rounded Courtois and scored.
Belgium’s pace and creativity strained the Russian defense and was rewarded when Hazard burst into the penalty area and was tripped by Yuri Zhirkov’s trailing leg. Hazard hit the resulting 45th-minute spot kick hard and low to give Russia’s Brazil-born goalkeeper Guilherme no chance.
As Russia pushed forward late on, Belgium took advantage of space at the back and Michy Batshuayi hit the post in the 79th. Hazard made it 3-1 from close range in the 88th. Belgium has won six of eight games since the loss to France in the World Cup semifinals.
Russia finished with 10 men when Monaco midfielder Alexander Golovin received a second yellow card for kicking out at an opponent.
Earlier, Scotland’s hopes of returning to major-tournament football after a 22-year absence suffered a blow with a 3-0 loss to Kazakhstan.
The Kazakhs scored twice in the opening 10 minutes and added another goal in the 51st minute.
Scotland — one of the 12 co-hosts for next year’s tournament — had been eyeing further success after earning promotion in the Nations League last year and had lost just one of its last 10 competitive games.
It was only Kazakhstan’s fifth win in 35 European qualifying games since it joined UEFA in 2002.
Cyprus strolled to a routine 5-0 win over San Marino in the day’s other game.
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