Belgium 2-0 Scotland: Defeat drops Scots to bottom of World Cup group
Goals from Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany effectively end Scotland's qualification hopes.
Scotland's World Cup hopes were effectively ended in Brussels as Craig Levein's side were beaten 2-0 by an impressive home side.
Goals from Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany sent Scotland to the bottom of qualifying group A and piled further pressure on national team manager Levein.
Following the 2-1 defeat in Wales on Friday, Levein had admitted that the match in the king Baudouin Stadium was one in which Scotland needed to take an unlikely win but, with Belgium in commanding form, the visitors rode their luck in the first half but saw hopes crumble when Benteke and Kompany struck in close succession.
Belgium showed how they had earned their favourites tag right from kick-off with Dries Mertens forcing a smart save from Allan McGregor after a Gary Caldwell effort. With Scotland unable to clear their lines, Mertens was allowed another attempt at goal but McGregor proved his quality to prevent early disaster.
Encouraged by a nervy opening from Scotland, Belgium pushed on and Nacer Chadli drew another save before McGregor was forced to save from his feet minutes later.
Scotland were struggling to get out of their own half but on a rare break forward James Morrison nearly caught out Belgian keeper Thibaut Courtois with a miss-hit shot.
Levein’s side were given further encouragement when Shaun Maloney found the top corner with a swerving free-kick but Courtois was equal to it and tipped behind.
The pattern of the match was very much one where Belgium enjoyed possession and threat for long periods and Scotland made occasional breaks. Chadli, Dembele and Mertens all had chances but Scotland hung on.
Kris Commons tested Courtois with another free-kick but neither side could get on the scoreboard before half-time. Scotland were the more grateful for the stalemate.
Levein introduced Jamie Mackie for Commons at the break but Marc Wilmots made a change of his own, choosing to replace Dembele with Chelsea star Eden Hazard.
The balance of play remained unchanged. Benteke hit the woodwork with a header minutes in and Belgium kept up their patient, probing game.
On 69 minutes, they had their reward when Benteke rose above his marker again, this time bulleting a header past a helpless McGregor.
While Scotland were still reeling, the hosts doubled their lead. After a corner wasn’t cleared, Hazard played it to defender Kompany, who showed a sure touch to make space before cracking in a thunderous strike to seal the points.
Levein brought n Kenny Miller for Steven Fletcher and then handed Matt Phillips a competitive debut but the changes made little impact and the curtain came down on the World Cup hopes and possibly the manager’s tenure.