2018 FIFA World Cup : Belgium wins opener against Panama

Soccer Football - World Cup - Belgium Training - Sochi, Russia - June 17, 2018 Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne during training REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) – Belgium’s creativity and power proved too much for World Cup debutants Panama as the Group G favorites overcame the heroics of goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and a massed defense to run out 3-0 winners on Monday (this morning Fiji time).

It took a wonderful dipping volley from Dries Mertens on the right-hand edge of the area just after halftime to break the deadlock, however, giving Penedo no chance after a first half in which he had defied Mertens, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku.

Hazard laid the ball off to Kevin De Bruyne who flipped a diagonal ball with the outside of his foot through for a lurking Lukaku to head home in the 69th minute.

The Manchester United striker made it 3-0 in the 75th, latching on to a through pass from Hazard and chipping over Penedo.

Belgium, unbeaten in their last 20 matches, will now be full of confidence for games against Tunisia and England.

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Moscow, editing by Ed Osmond.