Belgium ease past Azerbaijan

BRUSSELS, March 29 (Reuters) - Belgium held on to second spot in Euro 2012 qualifying Group A with a 4-1 defeat of Azerbaijan in Brussels on Tuesday.

A Jan Vertonghen strike from a free-kick, a Timmy Simons penalty and a Nacer Chadli header meant the hosts had the game effectively decided at 3-1 by the end of the first half.

Jelle Vossen's tap-in 16 minutes completed the scoring and earned Belgium a richly deserved win, which came despite the absence of injured striker Romelu Lukaku and playmaker Marouane Fellaini and suspended centre-back Vincent Kompany.

Belgian coach Georges Leekens had warned before the match of the danger posed by Azerbaijan, who stunned Turkey with a 1-0 home victory last October. However, the team that came to Brussels was more reminiscent of the side crushed 6-1 by Germany in September.

Belgium's only blip came four minutes after they had taken the lead when a rare Azerbaijan attack led to a corner, from which Ruslan Abushev headed in.

Germany lead Group A with 15 points, from Belgium on 10, Turkey on nine and Austria on 7. Belgium have played six matches, their rivals all five each. Belgium next host Turkey in a crunch match on June 3.