CLEVELAND (AP) — Christian Benteke scored two of Belgium’s three second-half goals in a decisive 4-2 win over the United States in an international friendly Wednesday.
Boasting a squad including 10 English Premier League players, Belgium overpowered a U.S. team that has some work to do on defense before it can think about making the field for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
After Kevin Mirallas opened the scoring for Belgium in the sixth minute, Geoff Cameron equalized in the 22nd to leave the scores level at 1-1 at halftime.
Aston Villa striker Benteke scored in the 56th and 71st minutes for Belgium — ranked 15th in the world — and Marouane Fellaini added another in the 64th.
Clint Dempsey converted a penalty in the 80th minute for the United States.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann expected Belgium to offer a stiff challenge for his evolving team, which is missing several key players. And while the Americans had some nice moments, the Belgians controlled the game from the outset.
Klinsmann said it was a good learning experience for his squad to play against one of the world’s best teams.
“This is why we want to play teams like Belgium and like Germany and like Russia.” Klinsmann said, “because there is so much that you can read from those games and there is so much you can see. Obviously, you want to win them. But I would rather play Belgium 10 more times than El Salvador 100 times because that is when you learn.”
Before a crowd of 27,720, Belgium took advantage of poor defense to score three of its goals.
With the score 1-1 in the second half, a turnover by American midfielder Brad Davis was compounded by defender Omar Gonzalez’s failure to clear the ball. Gonzalez could have easily booted it over the touch or end line, but instead left the ball for Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne, who centered it to Benteke for an easy tap-in.
“I took the touch a little bit too far,” Gonzalez explained. “But that’s not going to deter me from taking that touch again. Other than that, you learn from it and hopefully we come out a lot better against Germany and we can start preparing for the games that matter. These games are really just for experience.”
Substitute keeper Brad Guzan came up with a good save in the 64th minute, but seconds later he was fishing the ball from his net again. Fellaini, the Everton midfielder known as much for his puffy hairdo as his skills, headed his goal into the left corner off a beautiful cross by De Bruyne to make it 3-1.
In the five minutes later, Benteke streaked behind defenders DaMarcus Beasley and Matt Besler and chipped in a pass from Steven Defour.
Referee Jeffery Solis awarded a Dempsey’s penalty after calling Toby Alderweireld for a hand ball in the box.