Fellaini shakes off his Man Utd blues
MANCHESTER United misfit Marouane Fellaini came off the bench to inspire a dramatic Belgian fightback against Algeria on Tuesday, as Marc Wilmots' young side opened their World Cup campaign with a 2-1 win.
Fellaini, who endured a wretched season at United after his move from Everton, caused havoc among the Algerian defence when he came on as a second-half substitute, dragging his side back into the game with a towering header with 20 minutes to go.
Fellow substitute Dries Mertens fired home 10 minutes later after a pass from Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard, to secure three points for Belgium, tipped as dark horses who could go all the way in Brazil.
"(In the) changing room I wrote down on the board: 'the bench will make the difference.' And the bench made the difference," said a delighted Wilmots.
The Africans, ranked 22nd in the world, scored from the penalty spot midway through the first half and looked set to hold on against a Belgian side that looked short of ideas despite their array of youthful attacking talent.
But two substitutions from Wilmots in the second period - bringing on Fellaini for Moussa Dembele minutes after Divock Origi replaced Romelu Lukaku - changed the game.
The Africans broke the deadlock after Jan Vertonghen pulled down Sofiane Feghouli in the penalty area as he tried to get on the end of a teasing cross from Faouzi Ghoulam.
Feghouli struck the ball to the left of Thibaut Courtois, scoring Algeria's first World Cup goal since Djamel Zidane netted against Northern Ireland in 1986.
The goal jolted the 11th-ranked Belgians into life, but although they continued to dominate possession, they struggled to create clear-cut openings.
Powerful forward Lukaku was a peripheral figure, and Hazard was unable to work his magic to create a clear-cut opening.
Fellaini was first to get his head to a ball from Kevin De Bruyne, pulling Belgium level. Mertens put his side in front with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Fellaini almost scored again, but Algeria's M'bolhi showed tremendous reaction to tip his goal-bound header over the bar.
"Fellaini is one of the best headers of a ball in Europe, he brings a lot to the game in terms of his physical impact," said Algeria's Bosnian coach, Vahid Halilhodzic.
"He was so dominant in the air that my players didn't have an answer to it. He's an extraordinary player who changed the game."