Lukaku hits four goals for Belgium to set Euro record
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP):
Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored four first-half goals to lead a 5-0 rout of 10-man Azerbaijan in their final European Championship-qualifying game, with Serbia locking up their spot at next year's Euro after drawing 2-2 with Bulgaria yesterday.
Lukaku leads the scoring in the qualifiers with 14 goals, four more than Cristiano Ronaldo, whose Portugal were scheduled to play Iceland later yesterday.
Lukaku's haul set a record for European Championship qualifying, beating the previous mark of 13 goals held by Poland's Robert Lewandowski (in Euro 2016 qualifying) and Northern Ireland's David Healy (Euro 2008 qualifying).
The Roma striker took all four goals between the 17th and 37th minutes in a display of clinical finishing.
Following Lukaku's opener to make it 1-0, Azerbaijan was down to 10 players in the 24th after Eddy Pascual got his second yellow card.
"It was an outstanding performance by Romelu," Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco said. "He scored with every shot. You can't do better."
Belgium had already qualified with Austria from Group F before the game, but the victory meant they finished in first place. Sweden beat Estonia 2-0 and ended third in the group.
Lukaku, also celebrating his son's birthday, said they were poised to "go far" in Germany.
Lukaku started qualifying by scoring a hat-trick against Sweden in March. The 30-year-old striker only failed to score in one of the eight qualifying games. Azerbaijan frustrated him in September in a 1-0 win for Belgium.
He has also scored nine goals in 14 games for Roma since he was loaned to the Italians from Chelsea in the offseason.
Serbia needed a draw or for Montenegro not to beat Hungary to advance to next year's tournament in Germany.
There was a moment when Serbia appeared to be in trouble after Montenegro went ahead 1-0 against Hungary while Bulgaria led Serbia 2-1.
But Serbia defender Srdan Babic's equaliser in the 82nd ensured that they needed no help.
The already-qualified Hungary rallied to beat Montenegro 3-1, led by midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai's brace.
Hungary finished Group G with 18 points. Serbia were second with 14, and Montenegro third with 11.
Hungary secured their place on Thursday when they won at Bulgaria. The match was marred by violence when local fans clashed with police on the streets of Sofia during a protest over the management of the national football union.