Belgium 3-0 Panama: Romelu Lukaku Brace Helps Red Devils Break Panamanian Hearts

Roberto Martínez tasted victory in his first World Cup finals match in charge of Belgium by guiding the Red Devils to a 3-0 victory over Central American minnows Panama.

Belgium have moved to the top of Group G with three points, thanks to goals from Dries Mertens and Romelu Lukaku, but either England or Tunisia can move level with a win in the late kick off on Monday.

Belgium were able to keep Panama pegged back throughout the majority of the 90 minutes, but the Red Devils needed to rely on a moment of individual brilliance from Napoli star Mertens to open the scoring at the Fisht Olympic Stadium.

The cagey encounter somewhat opened up after the deadlock was broken and Manchester United striker Lukaku was able to notch Belgium’s second and third goals to give the Red Devils a vital win in their opening game.

It took just 40 seconds for Romelu Lukaku to have his first sniff at goal, but Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo remained untroubled until Yannick Ferreira Carrasco and Dries Mertens had quickfire efforts minutes later.

Eden Hazard could only find the side netting with the best chance of the game after capitalising on a mix up between Penedo and Román Torres, while Mertens’ shot from a quick corner kick ended in the same result.

Panama’s qualifying hero Torres sensationally avoided scoring an own goal midway through the first half, but the World Cup debutants were unable to threaten Belgium’s goal at all in what was a first half to forget for spectators.

?Napoli striker Dries Mertens ensured that the second half wouldn’t follow the same pattern as the first 45 minutes, scoring an incredible opening goal just two minutes after the break. 

The 31-year-old reacted quickest following a deflection to volley a dipping shot beyond the outstretched arm of Jaime Penedo from an unlikely angle.

Panama right back Michael Amir Murillo popped up with their first chance of the game soon after but the defender, who plays his club football with New York Red Bulls, was thwarted by a combination of Jan Vertonghen and Thibaut Courtois.

Belgium v Panama: Group G - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

Belgium were able to double their lead after some clever link-up between Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, with the ?Manchester United striker nodding the ball into the back of the net from close range after a stunning cross.

Lukaku then scored his second of the game after latching on to an inch-perfect through ball, with the 25-year-old opting to dink the ball over Penedo to round off the scoring in Sochi.

The pressure is now firmly on England to get a result against Tunisia in order to keep pace with Belgium ahead of their heavyweight clash on matchday three which looks set to be a battle for top spot in Group G.

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Tottenham & Chelsea ‘Offered Liverpool Target’ Following Insufficient Bid From Klopp’s Side

Both ?Tottenham and ?Chelsea have been put on high alert after reports emerged that ?Liverpool target Nabil Fekir has been offered to Premier League clubs – for a whopping £66m.
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?The Frenchman looked set to join Liverpool just a week ago, however the deal collapsed due to the Reds wanting a ?cheaper deal after a knee injury was found during the medical. The £56m Klopp was willing to pay for the forward was seen as insufficient by Lyon, and the deal was called off.

France v Republic of Ireland - International Friendly

Now, according to ?the Sun, Lyon have set an asking price of £66m for Fekir, with a number of ?Premier League clubs set to come in for the Frenchman.
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?It’s not secret that both Chelsea and Tottenham have been in the market for an attacking midfielder in recent weeks, and the deal collapsing with Liverpool could open up an opportunity for either side to steal the 24-year-old from Klopp’s men.

Fekir scored 24 goals and bagged nine assists in 43 appearances in all competitions for Lyon last season, including some outstanding performances which earned him a call up to Didier Deschamps’ French World Cup squad.
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He came on as a 70th minute substitute in France’s opening game against Australia, however was given little time to leave his mark on the game as his side ran out 2-1 winners.

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??There will no doubt be a host of Premier League sides who will be keeping a close eye on Fekir’s performances at the World Cup as they decide whether or not Fekir is a player who can improve their side next season.

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Eden Hazard Admits Interest in Real Madrid Move & Reveals What Chelsea Must Do to Keep Him

?Chelsea superstar Eden Hazard has added fuel to the ongoing speculation that he could leave Stamford Bridge this summer after admitting that he has no intention of staying if the team is not going to improve on a poor 2017/18, while adding that Real Madrid could be of interest.

Hazard, who will shortly enter the final two years of his current Chelsea contract, has been heavily linked with Real for some time.

Chelsea v Huddersfield Town - Premier League

It was thought that interest from the reigning European champions could subside following Zinedine Zidane’s recent exit, given the public admiration the two men hold for each other, but Hazard has essentially put the ball in Real’s court by stating ‘they know what they have to do’.

“I do not want to stay if we are less good. Real Madrid can interest me, everyone knows that,” he told ?L’Equipe ahead of Belgium’s World Cup opener against Panama.

“But if tomorrow [Real] does not want me, we will no longer speak about it. If they want to buy me they know what they have to do.”

As for Chelsea? “I am waiting to see if the club stays or goes. If I stay, it will be because the team will be better than the season we have just experienced,” he said.

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Chelsea finished the 2017/18 campaign by lifting the FA Cup after beating Manchester United at Wembley, but poor Premier League season saw the club finish fifth and miss out on Champions League football for the second time in three years.

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AC Milan and Chelsea to Fight for Juventus Striker and Argentinian International

A top goalscorer is always a big commodity, and ?AC Milan are looking at making a major move for Gonzalo Higuain of ?Juventus – but face competition from ?Chelsea.

According to Italian outlet ?Corriere dello Sport, Juventus believe that this could be the last transfer window in which they could earn a sizeable transfer fee for 30-year-old Higuain, and AC Milan are interested in signing the striker.

The report suggests that Milan’s primary target is Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has also been linked with a return to Juventus, with whom he excelled between 2014 and 2016.

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It appears as though everything rests on Chelsea’s search for a new manager. ?Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri has been heavily linked with joining Chelsea, and Corriere dello Sport believe Sarri would want former Napoli striker Higuain to join him at Chelsea, which could lead to Morata leaving the club.

Whilst transfers of this magnitude are rare between AC Milan and Juventus, the deal which saw Leonardo Bonucci leave Turin last summer proves that the clubs are prepared to do business, as long as it suits both parties.

A fee of around €60m has been suggested, with Juventus looking to reinvest that money into some more youthful signings. Any move for Higuain or Morata depends on whether AC Milan can resolve their current financial situation, as they could be banned from the Europa League as a result of failing to appease UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules.

Whilst both strikers have a solid scoring record in Italian football, Higuain is seen as a more experienced alternative to Morata. Plus, Higuain had the more productive season over the last year, scoring 23 goals in 50 appearances for Juventus.

Chelsea v Huddersfield Town - Premier League

Morata scored 15 goals in 48 appearances, but the Spaniard struggled heavily for the second half of the season, scoring only once in the ?Premier League in 2018.

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CSKA Set Price Tag on Juventus, Arsenal & Chelsea Target After Star Performance in World Cup Opener

??Arsenal and ?Chelsea are set to be in the hunt for highly rated CSKA Moscow midfielder Aleksandr Golovin this summer – along with Serie A champions ?Juventus – but all three teams will have to pay a premium fee for the Russian star.

Golovin impressed last season for the Russian club and he has carried that good form into the World Cup, where he stole the show in his country’s opening match against Saudi Arabia. The attacking midfielder created three goals before nabbing one for himself with a deliciously weighted free-kick to make it 5-0 for the host nation.

Russia v Saudi Arabia: Group A - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

He is undoubtedly Russia’s star player and with the spotlight focused on the 22-year-old, he has has attracted a lot of attention from some of the best sides in European football. According to Football.London, that includes Arsenal and Chelsea, but the report reveals that any buying club will need to pay €25m for his services.

Sky Sports Italia reporter Gianluca di Marzio has suggested that Juventus are leading the charge for Golovin, but the player himself says he focusing on his national side for now.

He said: “For now I want to focus on the World Cup and Russia. 

“I am honoured and pleased by interest from Juventus, but I want to have a great World Cup.”

This may open the door for Arsenal and Chelsea, but Golovin’s superb opening display against Saudi Arabia has bumped up his price-tag considerably.

Juventus had previously offered €15m for Golovin according to ?La Gazzetta dello Sport, but there has been no word over whether they are prepared to increase their bid. 

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Juventus, along with Arsenal and Chelsea, will be watching Russia’s remaining group matches with keen anticipation. If Juventus aren’t willing to increase their bid then it could be the perfect opportunity for Arsenal and Chelsea to swoop in.

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