Red Devils find form: How Stats Zone saw Belgium 3-0 Republic of Ireland

Marc Wilmots' side banished their opening defeat to show potential at Euro 2016…

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Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne moved up several gears to see off a belligerent Republic of Ireland outfit on Saturday afternoon. And Stats Zone helped illuminate how the English Premier League stars were able to get going at Euro 2016 having been unable to find a way past that stifling Italian defence on Matchday 1.

Instead, despite a keenly contested opening 40 minutes, Les Diables Rouge slowly took control of midfield, and sniped down the flanks to create chances against captain John O'Shea's team, eventually settling the contest via three lightning counter-jabs.

Fellaini dropped, Dembele recall

Wilmots dropped Marouane Fellaini for Mousa Dembele to add more craft to the middle of the pitch, while also swapping in Thomas Meunier at right-back for the unconvincing Laurent Ciman.

And the changes looked to help the Belgians as Dembele added his customary successful dribbles and ball recoveries to the middle proceedings, and collectively they forced Ireland onto the back foot.

Indeed Ireland only really threatened via the odd attempted high press from Shane Long and Co. which often resulted in a Belgian free kick, with Jan Vertonghen and Thomas Vermaelen too technically adept to pin down in such a manner.

Wide attacks

Belgium used the flanks often, with the creatavity of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne to the fore.

There was an element of irony to the opening goal, however, as Ireland's Long attacked a cross and Vermaelen might have conceded a penalty with a high foot. Instead Belgium countered, with Lukaku finding the corner of Darren Randolph's net in fine fashion with a finessed left-foot finish.

And from there the Belgians took control, countering twice more through the excellent Axel Witsel (who only lost the ball twice during the entire game)…

…and Lukaku again…

…while the improving De Bruyne, who created the most chances in the game and found a team-mate with half of his crosses, finally brought his superb club form to the tournament arena.

For Ireland, a (not inconceivable) victory is needed in Lille on Wednesday against confirmed Group E winners Italy. For Belgium, things look a whole lot rosier.

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