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 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.