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Belgium rallies to defeat Algeria

Jul 10, 2014 - 12:49 AM Belo Horizonte, Brazil ( - Belgium avoided a disappointing defeat in its opening match of the World Cup, rallying from a one-goal deficit to get a 2-1 win over Algeria at the Estadio Mineirao on Tuesday.

Algeria took a shock lead after 25 minutes when Jan Vertonghen conceded a penalty kick, which Sofiane Feghouli converted with great ease.

But Belgium battled back with super-subs Marouane Fellaini and Dries Mertens scoring 10 minutes apart in the second half to hand the Red Devils a vital victory in the Group H opener.

It was a nightmare start for Belgium, the consensus dark horse of the World Cup.

Vertonghen was tracking back to deal with Faouzi Ghoulam's cross in the 24th minute but ended up conceding a penalty after he clattered into the back of Feghouli, who converted on the ensuing attempt to put the African nation in front.

The Red Devils controlled the match from that point forward but struggled to break down the organized Algeria defense.

Head coach Marc Wilmots made a few gutsy substitutions in an attempt to turn the tide in Belgium's favor, bringing on the likes of Mertens, Divock Origi and Fellaini for Nacer Chadli, Romelu Lukaku and Mousa Dembele, respectively.

The moves paid off in spades as Fellaini and Mertens scored in relatively quick succession to rescue Belgium and deliver the European nation all three points.

"The substitutions I made injected a bit of pace, which changed the game after the break," Wilmots said. "The players seemed like beaten men in the dressing room, but I told them that I was sure that we would score eventually. The points are in the bag, we've still got a long way to go, but we showed our strength of character."

Fellaini notched the equalizer in the 70th minute by getting on the end of Kevin De Bruyne's exquisite cross and sending a glancing header off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.

The goal rejuvenated Belgium, and Mertens bagged the game-winner from an 80th- minute counter attack by taking Eden Hazard's pass to the right side of the box and hammering a shot past Rais M'Bolhi at the near post.

Algeria will attempt to rebound on Sunday when it takes on South Korea at the Estadio Beira-Rio.

Belgium will return to action against Russia at the Maracana, also on Sunday.

"I'm left with the disappointing feeling of having come close to achieving something great," Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic said. "The different level of experience was a key factor towards the end. The match came down to little things, really, as well as the talent of our opponents. Marouane Fellaini's goal was a case in point, as he's one of the world's best headers of a ball. We weren't far away from pulling off an upset. I'd talked about how effective the Belgians are at counter-attacking, and unfortunately that was confirmed on the pitch."