Serbia ended their 24-year wait to qualify for the UEFA European Championship after drawing 2-2 with Bulgaria to book their ticket to EURO 2024, on a night when Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku established a new European Qualifiers goalscoring record.
Serbia secured the point they needed to qualify for their first EURO finals since 2000. Milos Veljkovic put the hosts ahead in the first half, nodding in from close range after Nemanja Gudelj’s header had struck the crossbar.
The visitors improved after the restart and restored parity courtesy of Georgi Rusev’s crisp low drive, before Kiril Despodov completed the turnaround following a well-worked counterattack.
Dragan Stojkovic’s side levelled with eight minutes remaining, Srdan Babic heading home a Dusan Tadic corner to deny Bulgaria their first win in Group G.
In other match, Romelu Lukaku’s four-goal haul in the space of 21 first-half minutes helped Belgium clinch top spot in Group F against ten-man Azerbaijan.
The Red Devils captain got the breakthrough 17 minutes in, with a powerful header from Jérémy Doku’s pinpoint delivery. Visiting midfielder Eddy was dismissed for a second booking shortly afterwards and Lukaku doubled the advantage moments later, before nodding in Wout Faes’ cross to complete his hat-trick and grabbing a fourth eight minutes before half-time.
Leandro Trossard added a fifth late on, sweeping home Doku’s cutback.
Lukaku’s four goals took him to 14 for this EURO qualifying campaign, surpassing the record tally for EURO preliminaries set by Northern Ireland’s David Healy (2008) and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski (2016).
Elsewhere, skipper Dominik Szoboszlai’s quick-fire double, including a fine individual effort, sparked the comeback as Hungary secured top spot in Group G. Slobodan Rubezic’s close-range header put Montenegro ahead against the run of play as they chased the win they needed to stand any chance of qualifying.
Szoboszlai then levelled after the interval with a crisp finish following a mazy run, and he added a second just moments later after combining with Martin Adam. Adam Nagy’s half-volley in added time put the gloss on a stylish second-half showing.
Spain beats Georgia; loses Gavi with knee injury
Madrid, Nov 20 (IANS): Spain defeated Georgia 3-1 European Championship qualifying campaign on a high and ensure its top seeding in Germany next June.
Robin le Normand, Ferran Torres, and an own goal contributed to Spain’s hard-fought, but deserved win to conclude its. However, there was also bad news after FC Barcelona’s young midfielder, Gavi, sustained a first-half injury that appears to be serious to his knee, reports Xinhua.
Spain coach Luis de la Fuente made significant changes to his starting 11 from Thursday’s 3-1 win in Cyprus, with players such as Rodri, Alvaro Morata, Dani Carvajal, and Unai Simon all joining the side. Le Normand opened the scoring in the fourth minute by heading a Ferran Torres free-kick in at the far post.
Spain had previously defeated Georgia 7-1 two months ago, and when Georgia’s keeper, Giorgi Mamardashvili, denied Morata four minutes later, it seemed the visitors might face another challenging game. However, they equalized in the 10th minute when Giorgi Chakvetadze’s perfect pass set up Khvicha Kvaratskhelia to score past Unai Simon.
While Georgia appeared more resilient in defense compared to their last match in September and played with determination, Mamardashvili had to intervene again to parry Ferran’s free-kick, before Spain experienced a setback with Gavi’s injury and subsequent replacement by Oihan Sancet.
Ferran nearly assisted Morata again, but Spain’s prime chance before halftime came when Nico Williams’s attempt from outside the area went narrowly wide. In the second half, Spain returned with greater vigor, and Mamardashvili excelled in denying Rodri’s header following Ferran’s effort. However, Mamardashvili couldn’t prevent Ferran from heading Spain back into the lead after a precise cross from Jose Luis Gaya, following collaboration with Williams.
Lamine Yamal substituted Ferran soon afterward to earn his fourth cap, solidifying his commitment to Spain over Morocco. He played a role in Spain’s third goal when his cross deflected off Luka Lochoshvili, misleading Mamardashvili.
The closing minutes saw De la Fuente’s side content to maintain their lead in a result that extends their streak to seven wins in their last eight games, along with a penalty shootout victory in the UEFA Nations League.