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Benteke scores after seven seconds, as Belgium hit six, Pogba’s hands France victory over Dutch

Christian Benteke (C) celebrates his second goal against Gibraltar.

Christian Benteke struck after seven seconds and went on to grab a hat-trick as Belgium thrashed Gibraltar 6-0 to stay top of World Cup qualifiying Group H on goal difference on Monday.

It was the fastest ever goal in a World Cup qualifier.

The Crystal Palace striker stole the ball in the home side’s half straight from the kickoff and weaved his way through Gibraltar’s defence to score from inside the area.

Benteke celebrated the record-breaking strike, also the fastest goal scored by a Belgium international, by holding up six fingers, thinking he had scored after six seconds.

Axel Witsel scored from 25 metres after 19 minutes to double Roberto Martinez’s side’s advantage and Benteke scored his second shortly before halftime when he turned in Thomas Meunier’s cut back from six yards.

After Dries Martens scored the fourth with a dinked finish in the 51st minute Benteke completed his first hat-trick for Belgium five minutes later with a backheel from Eden Hazard’s pass.

Chelsea forward Hazard then added to his assist by completing the rout in the 78th minute.

Belgium top Group H on nine points thanks to their superior goal difference over Greece, who also extended their 100 percent start by winning 2-0 in Estonia.

“The fact we scored so early proves we were fully concentrated,” Martinez told Belgian network RTBF.

“We weren’t selfish, we played for each other. Our aim was to score early to make our job easier and that’s what we did. I’m very pleased with the display we put on.”

Martinez also said Benteke’s return to form for club and country was his reward for working hard to try and bounce back from an underwhelming last year with Liverpool.

“As well as scoring he held the ball up really well,” added Martinez on Benteke, who has scored three goals in five Premier League appearances for Crystal Palace.

“He has been rewarded for all the hard work in recent weeks. He had a difficult last season and is trying to find his best form again.”

France midfielder Paul Pogba, the world’s most expensive player, scored with a swirling long-range shot after 30 minutes to secure a vital 1-0 win away to the Netherlands in World Cup qualifying on Monday.

The victory at the Amsterdam Arena elevated the Euro 2016 runners-up to overwhelming favourites to finish top of Group A and qualify for the finals in Russia in 2018.

France lead on seven points along with Sweden, who won 3-0 against Bulgaria, while Netherlands are third on four points.

Although each country still has seven matches left, France’s win over the team expected to be their toughest opposition in the section hands Didier Deschamps’ side a huge advantage.

Manchester United midfielder Pogba hit his shot from midway between the halfway line and the edge of the Dutch penalty area and it swerved wickedly to fox goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg, who might have done better with his diving effort to save it.

The Netherlands made vociferous claims for a penalty four minutes before halftime when the ball struck Laurent Koscielny’s arm as he dived to block Vincent Janssen’s close-range shot but Slovenian referee Damir Skomina turned down the Dutch appeals.

Stekelenburg, playing only his second international in four years, denied Kevin Gameiro in the opening 15 minutes and again shortly after halftime. The rebound from the second effort fell favourably for Antoine Griezmann who put his effort wide.

The Everton keeper also used his feet to scramble the ball off his line after Pogba’s 66th minute header from a corner.

Memphis Depay, who came on after 16 minutes for the injured Quincy Promes, had three chances to equalise, including a curling free kick that almost caught out Hugo Lloris and a close-range effort two minutes from time that the keeper kept out with a stunning one-handed save.

“They had more quality than us but we didn’t give away too many chances, only a long range shot went it,” said Dutch captain Kevin Strootman. “That made it more difficult but I think we missed just a little finesse in our final attack.”

France next host Sweden on Nov. 11 while the Netherlands visit Luxembourg two days later.



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