9-man Greece holds Belgium to 1-1 in European qualifying

ATHENS, Greece (AP) " Nine-man Greece celebrated its independence day holiday by holding Belgium to 1-1 in Brussels in World Cup qualifying on Saturday.

Kostas Mitroglou exploited a brief lapse in concentration from Belgium. The Europe Group H favorite looked defeated until Romelu Lukaku chested down the ball and scored with two minutes remaining, to keep his team on top.

The Belgians missed the speed of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, both out to injury. But they should have led early, when Dries Mertens found a gap at the back but Maroune Fellaini, under little pressure, missed a header at close range.

The Greeks did what they do best: Absorbing pressure, and relying on their world-class defense, anchored by Kostas Manolas and Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who remained solid all evening at King Baudouin Stadium.

Just 20 seconds into the second half, Mitroglou tapped the ball past Thibault Courtois in goal.

"It's hard to play against a team that is trying to disrupt your game," Courtois said.

"It was a draw but it feels more like a loss ... Still, thank goodness for Lukaku."

The goal was a blow to Belgium's confidence, but the side picked up from the 65th minute when Panagiotis Tachtsidis was sent off for his second booking, a clumsy tackle on Toby Alderweireld.

Lukaku rescued Belgium, and nearly added a second moments later, only to be denied by Stefanos Kapino.

"It was an amazing performance from all the guys," Kapino said. "Sure, we're disappointed to make it all the way to the end of the game and then let that win slip away. But we are the only team that has stopped the Belgians."

Greece's Giorgos Tzavelas was ejected in injury time following a scuffle, but teammates held on to frustrate the Red Devils who blitzed through their first four qualifiers with 21 goals and four wins.

In Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina sealed its third win by hammering Gibraltar 5-0.

Gibraltar's defense was no match for the pacey Bosnians, and Vedad Ibisevic scored twice before the break. Ibisevic also set up the fifth and last goal.

Bosnia is trying to make its second World Cup finals.

In Cyprus, the home side and Estonia drew 0-0.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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