Kevin De Bruyne showed his immense class in Belgium's 2-1 win over Denmark on Thursday at Euro 2020 in a match where both teams took time to honour Christian Eriksen in Copenhagen.
The introduction of the Manchester City midfielder at the half turned the tide of the match firmly towards the Red Devils, setting up Belgium's equalizer from Thorgan Hazard in the 54th and scoring the winner in the 70th. With two wins from two matches in Group B, Belgium has qualified for the knockout round.
An emotional Denmark, playing for the first time since the loss of Eriksen to a cardiac episode in their opener on Saturday versus Finland, had a dream start.
Only 90 seconds into the match, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Pierre-Emile Højbjerg intercepted a poor clearance from Jason Denayer and played Youssef Poulsen in alone behind the Red Devils' defence. The RB Leipzig forward made no mistake, hammering home past Thibault Courtois to give Denmark a quick 1-0.
In the 10th minute, both teams paid tribute to Eriksen, who is still in hospital and preparing to undergo surgery to have a defibrillator inserted. Belgium purposely played the ball out to allow both countries a minute of applause.
The rest of the half played out in indifferent fashion for the heavily favoured Belgians, who couldn't seem to get anything going.
It was the introduction of PFA Player of the Year De Bruyne to start the second half by Roberto Martinez - and later bringing Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard into his midfield - that allowed Belgium to take over. De Bruyne was seeing his first action of the tournament and returning to the pitch for the first time since leaving the Champions League final early late last month with a facial injury.
In the 54th, Romelu Lukaku ran down the right and found De Bruyne in the area. A brilliant first touch that threw off two defenders allowed De Bruyne to slide a pass to an unmarked Thorgan Hazard, who slotted home the equalizer.
Then in the 70th, De Bruyne finished off a beautiful team move for one of the goals of the tournament. Lukaku played a ball to Eden Hazard at the edge of the box and the elder Hazard quickly spotted a streaking De Bruyne who smashed home into the bottom corner to give Belgium a deserved lead.
The victory leaves Belgium on six points. The Red Devils will close out their group stage on Monday in St. Petersburg against Finland, who sit on three points.
Denmark, sitting on the precipice of elimination after two losses in two matches, also play on Monday, wrapping up their Group B campaign against Russia in Copenhagen. Russia also sits on three points.