Early goals by Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens earned Belgium a comfortable 2-0 victory over England as they strengthened their grip on top spot in Nations League Group A2 in Leuven on Sunday.

England needed a win to put themselves back in the frame for a place in the Nations League finals, but Gareth Southgate’s side found themselves chasing the game after Tielemans put the hosts in front after 10 minutes.

Harry Kane had an effort cleared off the line soon after but it got even worse for England when Mertens curled home a delightful free kick after 23 minutes.

Belgium held on with few real alarms against an unimaginative England side and must now avoid defeat on Wednesday against Denmark, who beat Iceland 2-1, to finish top of the group.

A second successive defeat for England, after a home loss to Denmark, left them in third place in the group with one match to come at home to Iceland next week.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Slovakia ended Scotland’s nine-match unbeaten run when a first-half goal from Jan Gregus gave them a 1-0 win in their Nations League between teams who both qualified for Euro 2020 amid drama last week.

In other League B matches, Wales kept their seventh successive clean sheet in competitive games as they beat Ireland 1-0 and Turkey hit back to beat 10-man Russia in a match which hinged on an early red card for Andrey Semenov.

Gregus scored his fourth goal for his country with a deflected shot in the 32nd minute to deny Scotland a chance to win Group B2, and promotion to the top league, with one match to spare.

Scotland have 10 points from five games, four ahead of Czech Republic who host Israel later on Sunday. Slovakia are bottom with four points.

David Brooks headed the winner for Wales who stayed top of Group B4 with 13 points from five games and need a draw at home to Finland, who are one point behind after winning 2-1 in Bulgaria, on Wednesday to win promotion to League A.

Teemu Pukki and Robin Lod gave Finland a 2-0 halftime lead before Bulgaria’s Galin Ivanov had a penalty saved by Lukas Hradecky in the 61st minute.

Bulgaria won another penalty seven minutes later which substitute Dimitar Iliev converted and were unlucky not to get a draw.

Denis Cheryshev gave Group B3 leaders Russia an early lead but the visitors were left a man short in the 24th minute after a poor back pass by Magomed Ozdoev left Cenk Tosun with a clear run on goal.

Semenov unceremoniously brought him down and was sent off.

Kenan Karaman headed Turkey level almost immediately and Cengiz Under put them in front with a superb finish six minutes later. Tosun added a third with a penalty early in the second half before Daler Kuzyaev pulled one back.


REUTERS
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