Despite Panama forcing Belgium into strenuous football for long periods of the game, the European juggernauts paved their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory over the World Cup debutants in Sochi. All three goals came in the second half with Dries Mertens scoring a stunning volley as Romelu Lukaku sealed their victory with with two goals in quick succession.
Belgium took control of the proceedings as Roberto Martinez's men created a series of opportunities in and around the box. The front three of Mertens, Lukaku and Captain Hazard gave Panama's back four a run for their money. Slick passing and purposeful runs created openings that stretched Panama's defence and forced them last ditch efforts to avoid conceding. Were it not for Panama Keeper Jaime Manuel his side would have been down a couple of goals at the break. The new kids on the block held their own for the first 45 minutes of play though this would not be the case in the second half.
The second half was the story of the Belgian talent and dominance. Pressing high and forcing Panama into sloppy passing and turnovers; Belgium started the half with a steadfast approach and were rewarded in the 47th minute. A loose ball off a Panama clearance landed in the path of Mertens and the winger timed his volley to perfection as he drove the ball into the far corner to give his side the lead. Les Diables Rouges did not look back from here and were imbued with a spark that lead them to their victory. The game was put to bed when De Bruyne's picturesque trivela that found Lukaku who surged above the Panama defence to head the ball in for his first and Belgium's second. Minutes later Lukaku scored again as he found himself in a one on one situation against the goalkeeper and made no mistake as he lifted the ball over Penedo and into goal. The move was created by Hazard who broke free before finding his compatriot racing from the flanks.
While Panama were able to create chances throughout the game, none of them Thibaut Courtois who was a mere spectator apart from a couple of standard saves. For a debut performance, Panama had moments of modest play as they deterred the Belgians from taking the lead in the first half. That being said, they had no chance of a favourable result over the course of the 90 minutes. In the end, it was a rather satisfactory victory for Roberto Martinez and his squad do they did not look at their best. Poised to top Group G and progress into the knockout stages, Belgian is still lacking discipline and organization defensively that will be crucial if they are to go toe to toe with the Goliaths of this tournament. It finishes 3-0 to Belgium who look to face Tunisia in the next game.