Romelu Lukaku delivered a heartfelt message to Denmark player Christian Eriksen after scoring the first of his two goals in Belgium’s 3-0 win over Russia on Saturday at the European Championship.
After swivelling to shoot into the bottom corner in the 10th minute, Lukaku headed to a television camera and grabbed it with both hands, saying “Chris, Chris, I love you.”
Lukaku plays for Italian team Inter Milan alongside Eriksen, who needed urgent medical treatment before being taken to the hospital after collapsing on the field during Denmark’s match against Finland in Copenhagen earlier Saturday.
That led to the match in Denmark being suspended for about 90 minutes before resuming and finishing just after Belgium’s game started in St. Petersburg. Eriksen was in a stable condition, the Union of European Football Associations said.
Substitute Thomas Meunier added a second goal in the 34th minute and Lukaku made it 3-0 in the 88th for top-ranked Belgium, which validated its status as one of the favorites at Euro 2020 with a comfortable win in front of a heavily pro-Russian crowd of 26,264 spectators.
Before the game, there were loud jeers around Saint Petersburg Stadium after Belgium’s players took a knee before kickoff. Loud music was played while the gesture against racism was taking place but the boos were still audible.
Belgium’s victory was all the more impressive given the team was without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who wasn’t deemed ready after a minor operation on a fractured nose and eye socket, and with captain Eden Hazard only playing the final 19 minutes as a substitute.
Lacking his ideal supporting cast, Lukaku still managed to score in each half - moving to 62 goals in 93 international matches in the process - and he was given a helping hand by Russia defender Andrei Semenov for the first goal.
Semenov miskicked while attempting to clear a cross from the right and the ball fell loose in the area. Lukaku pounced, finding the corner with a low finish.
That punctured what had been a celebratory atmosphere inside the stadium and another mistake, this time by goalkeeper Anton Shunin, allowed Meunier to double the lead. Thorgan Hazard’s in-swinging cross was parried weakly by Shunin and Meunier slid his shot from the rebound into an unguarded net.
Meunier only came on the field in the 26th minute to replace fellow wing back Thomas Castagne, who took a nasty blow to the side of his face after clashing heads with Russia midfielder Daler Kuzyaev while they jumped for the ball.
Kuzyaev went off himself a few minutes later, the first of five substitutions - the maximum allotted - made by Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov by the 63rd minute.
Belgium centre back Jan Vertonghen also went off with an apparent leg injury in the second half before Lukaku’s second goal.