Belgium 3-2 Norway: Red Devils survive a send-off scare thanks to late turnaround

Belgium required a stirring fightback in order to avoid an embarrassing defeat to Norway in their final friendly prior to Euro 2016, with defender Laurent Ciman providing the late match-winner with his first international goal.

Belgium 3-2 Norway: Red Devils survive a send-off scare thanks to late turnaround
(Picture: Getty Images)
Belgium
3 2
Norway
Belgium: Courtois; Denayer (Ciman, min. 66), Alderweireld, Vertonghen, J. Lukaku; Witsel (Fellaini, min. 57), Nainggolan; Mertens (Origi, min. 80), De Bruyne, Hazard (Dembele, min. 84); R. Lukaku.
Norway: Nyland; Svenssoon, Hovland, Forren, Aleesai; Henriksen, Selnaes (Strandberg, min. 73), Johansen (Jensen, min. 75), V. Berisha (Fossum, min. 73); King (Sorloth, min. 81), Diomande (V. Berisha, min. 66).
SCORE: 1-0, min. 3, Lukaku. 1-1, min. 21, King. 2-1, min. 48, Berisha. 2-2, min. 70, Hazard. 3-2, min. 73, Ciman.
REFEREE: Tobias Stieler (GER). J. Lukaku (min. 77), Svenssoon (min. 78).
INCIDENTS: International friendly between Belgium and Norway at King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels. The match was played in front of 40,000 spectators.

Laurent Ciman's first ever goal for his country ensured that Belgium go into Euro 2016 in winning form after they came from behind to beat Norway 3-2 in their final build-up friendly on Sunday.

It took Romelu Lukaku just three minutes to open the scoring with his fourth international goal in as many games at King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels, but either side of the break Joshua King and Veton Berisha reversed the advantage.

Stand-in captain Eden Hazard helped rally his teammates by pulling the Red Devils level with 20 minutes remaining and the comeback was complete three minutes later as substitute Ciman headed home from a corner to give Belgium a far from assured victory.

Their Scandinavian opponents almost spoiled Belgium's send-off in front of a 40,000-strong crowd in the capital - leaving national team manager Marc Wilmots with as many questions answered as new ones asked.

Despite boasting a squad of such considerable strength, and going three games unbeaten before this summer's tournament in France, Belgium have been far from convincing in their performances.

Rather, they laboured to victory - barring their inspired turnaround - as their weaknesses defensively were once again exposed, this time by a country listed 51st in FIFA's world rankings.

The Belgians, who go into the Euros as the highest-ranked European team at the tournament, started strong. Unsurprising given their starting eleven, which saw Wilmots partner Tottenham Hotspur centre-backs Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen in defence.

Despite appearing to use Vertonghen at left-back in recent open training sessions in a training camp in Genk, it was Jordan Lukaku - brother of Everton striker Romelu - who made his fourth appearance on the left-side of defence.

Jason Denayer, who Wilmots believes to be the natural successor to injured captain Vincent Kompany, played at right-back with a familiar fron six all consisting of key players like Radja Nainggolan, Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne

Belgium flew out of the blocks and looked set to be a comfortable evening for them after they took an early lead inside just 153 seconds. De Bruyne's pass fortuitously deflected into Lukaku's path and he had no troubles beating Jonas Svensson before firing past goalkeeper Orjan Nyland from the edge of the box.

(Picture: Getty Images)
Lukaku celebrates his early opening goal. (Picture: Getty Images)

Axel Witsel's curling effort came just a few inches away from doubling Belgium's lead, but Norway drew level in the 21st minute. Nainggolan was too easily robbed of possession in his own half, allowing Celtic midfielder Stefan Johansen to feed King with a through ball and the Bournemouth striker's first-time finish was perfectly placed to find the inside of the far post.

After Belgium had dominated the opening quarter, the visitors began to grow into the game and only Thibaut Courtois prevented Veton Berisha from adding to the scoring before the break with an acrobatic stop.

Inside just four minutes of the restart, Norway stole the lead. With Nyland having denied Witsel and De Bruyne in stunning fashion, Per-Mathias Høgmo's side counter-attacked and found Berisha, who ran free of Vertonghen into space and lashed a powerful effort into the very top corner past a static Courtois.

Red Devils need improvements for successful summer

Belgium pushed for a quickfire reply, Witsel coming close again before being replaced by Marouane Fellaini in the centre of midfield, shortly before introducing Ciman in place of Denayer at right-back.

Just as it seemed like they were struggling to create any chances, Hazard pulled the hosts level after breaking into space at the six-yard box and managing the slightest touch on De Bruyne's cross to flick a header beyond Nyland.

The Red Devils turned the screw in search of a third to put them in front for a second time in the game, Nainggolan missing at the back post, but just 210 seconds after Hazard's equaliser - they lead courtesy of another header.

(Picture: Getty Images)
The Belgium squad celebrate one of their three goals on the night. (Picture: Getty Images)

Lukaku rounded Nyland, but saw his shot blocked off the line to force a corner - from which Alderweireld stooped to guide the ball into a dangerous area where Ciman lay in wait to head into an empty net and hand Wilmots and co. a morale-boosting victory.

With just a week remaining until Belgium open their Euro 2016 campaign against Italy, the boss will be hoping to use the final few days of preparation to get to the bottom of his side's frailties.

Although they boast such quality in the final third, which they demonstrated throughout the 90 minutes against Norway, they were notably prone at the back - injuries perhaps having played their part.

As well as the absence of Kompany, Belgium travel to France without Nicolas Lombaerts, Dedryck Boyata and Bjorn Engels - while Thomas Vermaelen and Thomas Meunier must prove by Wednesday that they are fit enough for inclusion in the 23-man squad.

But Belgium's defence in Brussels, barring the inexperienced attacking full-back Lukaku, was relatively full-strength and Vertonghen and Alderweireld were regularly exposed by an attack much less threatening than those they will face at the Euros.

Speaking afterwards, Wilmots acknowledged the "two avoidable goals" that they condeded, insisting that "cannot happen" in the tournament proper. "We are going to have to work harder," he added, hinting that he'd already been working on a game plan against Italy in the opening match.

Nevertheless, their performance - although it resulted in a hard-fought victory - reaffirmed that Belgium's hopes of a triumph this summer lies largely on the shoulders of their glittering strike-force and they will be well aware that improvement is necessary if they are to reach the latter stages of the competition.