Vertonghen's improbable header helps start Belgium comeback victory
PUBLISHED: 11:00 03 July 2018
PA Wire/PA Images
The Red Devils looked down and out trailing by two goals to Japan, but a goal from Tottenham Hotspur's defender helped them win 3-2
Jan Vertonghen’s goal helped Belgium bounce back from two goals down to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup with a dramatic 3-2 win over Japan.
It seemed like the Red Devils were heading out when Takashi Inui scored from 25-yards to put his country two goals ahead.
A header from Vertonghen started the comeback though, before further late goals by Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli earned a stunning stoppage-time victory.
Roberto Martinez had rested Spurs defenders Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld for the 1-0 win over England, but recalled the pair for the last-16 tie.
Mousa Dembele, who started last Thursday’s success, had to settle for a place on the bench and saw the first half finish goalless.
The second period was a completely different story, however, with Japan taking the lead in the 48th minute when Vertonghen failed to cut out Gaku Shibasaki’s pass and it allowed Genki Haraguchi to fire past Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois.
Four minutes later and it was 2-0 when Inui let fly from range and found the corner to put the Red Devils in an ominous position.
Vertonghen helped them reduce the deficit with 21 minutes left when his header from a tight angle somehow looped over Eiji Kawashima.
It gave Belgium belief and five minutes later they were level when Manchester United midfielder Fellaini powered home a header.
With time running out, Martinez’s team produced a stunning breakaway goal to grab a last-gasp winner.
Former Tottenham Hotspur attacker Chadli was the man in the right position at the right time to find the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time after slotting home a pass by Thomas Meunier.
It means Belgium remain in the competition after an almighty scare, but the Spurs trio will face a difficult task in the last-eight of the tournament.
Next up for the Red Devils is a quarter-final tie with Brazil where Vertonghen and Dembele will potentially come up against ex-team-mate Paulinho, who left White Hart Lane in 2015 after two years at the club. The match will start at 7pm on Friday.