Michy Batshuayi may be staring up at two other strikers in the pecking order at Chelsea, but for Belgium, he was picked as the top dog against, admittedly rather weak, opposition on Friday. And with neither Romelu Lukaku nor Christian Benteke featuring, Batshuayi got to go the distance, even, against San Marino, and repay the faith with a brace.
Having converted from the penalty spot just before half-time to give Belgium the lead, his far post header from Yannick Carrasco’s cross in stoppage time put the finishing touch on the 4-0 win.
With Eden Hazard missing through injury, Batshuayi was flanked by Divock Origi and Adnan Januzaj, though it were second half substitutes Dries Mertens and Nacer Chadli who finally put the hosts to the sword.
The win sees Belgium maintain their near flawless record in qualifying, with five wins from five, fifteen scored, and only one conceded.
Meanwhile, in a surprisingly wide open Group E — the top four teams separated by three points — a pair of Chelsea loanees saw action. Ethan Ampadu started and was solid as usual, but Wales needed a late winner from Gareth Bale in the 2-1 against winless Azerbaijan, and Mario Pašalić played the final ten minutes as a Mateo Kovačić-less Croatia walked all over hapless Slovakia, 4-0.
Next up, on Tuesday, surprise group leaders Hungary, who already beat Croatia once, play the Slovaks next in what is usually a heated rivalry match, while Croatia travel to Azerbaijan to try to assert some of the control they were expected to have over this group.
Also, as per the Chelsea website, youngsters Trevoh Chalobah and Marc Guehi made their England U21 debuts as they began the qualification cycle for the next U21 Euros with a 3-2 win over Turkey. Incidentally, Guehi partnered former Chelsea prospect Jonathan Panzo in central defense while Trevoh played in midfield.