An early Toby Alderweireld header was the prelude to three late goals that sent Belgium past Hungary and into a UEFA EURO 2016 quarter-final against Wales.
Hungary had a pre-match blow when László Kleinheisler was injured in the warm-up and Ádám Pintér was pressed into action. As if suitably emboldened, Belgium started just as Wales did in beating Russia 3-0 in the last Toulouse group game, tearing into Hungary and taking the lead when Alderweireld rose to head in a Kevin De Bruyne free-kick.
Gábor Király did brilliantly to tip another De Bruyne set piece onto the crossbar; the Manchester City man, Eden Hazard and Dries Martens – preferred to Yannick Carrasco – were buzzing about behind Romelu Lukaku, swapping positions at will and launching attacks with the aid of Axel Witsel and Radja Nainggolan.
Király made seven first-half saves and his eighth was seconds after half-time to deny Hazard, and although Hungary then had a promising spell, Belgium were soon back in control. Indeed, two minutes after his introduction, Michy Batshuayi marked his first finals appearance by tapping in a Hazard pass with his maiden touch.
Two minutes later Hazard’s shot made it three, capping a display in which the captain had given full rein to his talents. Carrasco, also off the bench, then claimed the fourth at the death.
Man of the match: Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Hazard is going back to his former club home of Lille to face Wales and tonight he put on the sort of performance the LOSC fans got to know well during his time there. Not just in attack, with his late assist and goal, but also in breaking up Hungary attacks, intercepting passes and tracking back to fine effect.
Belgium firing as an attacking force
If they were blunted in the opening match against Italy, De Bruyne hit form in the defeat of the Republic of Ireland and Hazard got into gear versus Sweden. Both were unplayable at times tonight and that is a conundrum Wales have five days to solve.
Hungary recapture some old glory
This was Hungary’s first major knockout tie since succumbing to Belgium in the EURO ’72 third-place play-off, and having won a group containing Portugal to get through and given Belgium several scares here, they should not have to wait as long again. Losing Kleinheisler, man of the match in the victory over Austria that set their campaign in motion, was a blow – as was Zoltán Gera going off at the interval – but they still gave their superb fans plenty to sing about.
Király fantastic in fifth decade
Király’s record as the oldest UEFA EURO finals player is now set in stone at 40 years and 87 days, and no goalkeeper has made as many saves in a game in this competition as he did at the Stadium de Toulouse. Was this really the last sighting of those grey jogging bottoms at this level?