VAR denies Lukaku twice in Belgium’s loss to Slovakia

VAR denies Lukaku twice in Belgium’s loss to Slovakia
DENIED TWICE. Romelu Lukaku had two goals disallowed in Belgium’s opening day loss to Slovakia. / AP

FRANKFURT, Germany — Two Romelu Lukaku goals were ruled out by video review and Belgium fell to a stunning 1-0 loss to Slovakia in wild Group E at the European Championship on Monday.

Slovakia struck in the seventh minute through forward Ivan Schranz then survived a string of misses by Belgium record scorer Lukaku, whose two second-half goals were overturned after first being given by the match officials, and all that playmaker Kevin De Bruyne could create.

Slovakia’s deserved win also was preserved by defender Dávid Hancko’s brave goal-line block that left him sprawled in the netting with a face injury inflicted by a teammate’s knee.

At the final whistle, the Slovakia squad and staff danced in front of their fans in the 45,181 crowd at the Waldstadion as their choice of victory music, the modern soccer anthem “Freed From Desire,” boomed out.

“This win means a lot not just for me but the whole Slovak nation,” said midfielder Stanislav Lobotka who was named player of the game. “Maybe not everyone has believed in us.”

Hancko returned to play on after stopping substitute Johan Bakayoko’s close-range shot in the 62nd, soon after Lukaku’s first ‘goal’ was overturned when a video review spotted an offside.

The second VAR intervention in the 86th was more open to debate and judged that Loïs Openda handled the ball before his decisive pass to Lukaku for a powerful shot.

“I want to be at least a good, fair loser,” Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco said about the match officials, who initially let the goal stand both times. “We trust these guys. We just have to accept it.”

Lukaku set a competition record of 14 goals in a qualifying group last year, and has a record 85 for Belgium, yet somehow failed to score in a wasteful first half including twice even before Slovakia led.

“He’s a top-class player, a great character,” Tedesco said. “He’s been playing for Belgium for a long time and he knows very well how to score goals.”

The drama in Frankfurt came hours after Romania upended predictions by outclassing Ukraine 3-0 in Munich.

Belgium fell to a first loss in 15 games under Tedesco and faces Romania in the Saturday evening game in Cologne. / AP

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