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Euro 2024: Belgium suffers shock 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in clash marred by Lukaku's VAR-denied goals

Belgium's Euro 2024 campaign got off to a rocky start as they suffered a surprising 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in their opening Group E encounter at the Deutsche Bank Park in Germany's Frankfurt on Monday.

football Euro 2024: Belgium suffers shock 1-0 defeat to Slovakia in clash marred by Lukaku's VAR-denied goals snt
First Published Jun 17, 2024, 11:30 PM IST

In a disappointing start to their Euro 2024 campaign, Belgium stumbled to a surprising 1-0 defeat against Slovakia in their Group E opener at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt on Monday. The match, anticipated as a showcase for Belgium's prowess as tournament favorites, instead unfolded with Slovakia seizing an early lead through Ivan Schranz's seventh-minute strike.

Despite Belgium's relentless efforts, highlighted by Romelu Lukaku's near-misses and VAR-disallowed goals, they failed to break down Slovakia's resilient defense. The result leaves Belgium facing an uphill battle to regain their footing in the tournament, while Slovakia celebrates a memorable upset.

Belgium, considered one of the top contenders in the tournament, almost opened the scoring early on through Lukaku's efforts. In the second minute, Jeremy Doku made a penetrating run into the penalty area, creating a promising chance. Kevin de Bruyne's touch redirected the ball to Lukaku, whose close-range shot was denied by Slovakia's determined goalkeeper, Martin Dubravka.

However, it was Slovakia who struck first blood just seven minutes into the game. Doku's costly giveaway near Belgium's box was swiftly punished by Slovakia's quick transition play. Koen Casteels managed to parry a shot, but Ivan Schranz reacted fastest, volleying the rebound into the net to give Slovakia an unexpected lead in the seventh minute of the clash.

The momentum continued to favour the underdog Slovakians as Dubravka narrowly escaped an error similar to Doku's, nearly conceding to Leandro Trossard. Fortunately for Slovakia, Trossard's subsequent shot flew over the crossbar, sparing their goalkeeper's blushes.

Belgium's frustrations mounted as Lukaku squandered another golden opportunity before halftime, failing to capitalize on a promising position amidst Slovakia's defense.

The first half concluded with Slovakia clearly outperforming expectations, dictating play against the supposed favourites.

The second half saw Belgium intensify their efforts to equalize, with Lukaku coming agonizingly close to leveling the score in the 55th minute. Amadou Onana's header from Trossard's well-placed cross seemed to set Lukaku up perfectly for a close-range finish.

The stadium erupted as Lukaku celebrated what appeared to be the equalizing goal, only for the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) to intervene. After a meticulous review, the officials ruled Lukaku marginally offside, denying Belgium the chance to draw level and adding to their frustrations.

Minutes later, Belgium came close once more as Johan Bakayoko unleashed a goal-bound shot, only to be denied by a brilliant clearance off the line by David Hancko. The Slovakian defender's timely intervention kept his team's slender lead intact, frustrating Belgium's relentless pursuit of an equalizer.

In a last-ditch effort to salvage a point, Lukaku thought he had finally broken through Slovakia's defense with just four minutes remaining. After Bakayoko delivered a precise pass into the box, Lukaku expertly finished the chance, prompting a surge of jubilation among the Belgian fans.

However, their celebrations were short-lived as the VAR once again intervened. Upon review, it was determined that Bakayoko had handled the ball in the buildup, nullifying Lukaku's goal and extinguishing Belgium's hopes of a late equalizer.

The decision compounded Belgium's frustrations in a match where they struggled to convert chances into goals, ultimately succumbing to Slovakia's resilient defense in a disappointing start to their Euro 2024 campaign.

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