Poland 0-1 Belgium: Batshuayi boosts Red Devils' Nations League hopes
Michy Batshuayi's first-half goal helped Belgium to a 1-0 win over Poland, keeping the Red Devils in with a chance of reaching the Nations League Finals.
Less than a week after scoring five second-half goals in a 6-1 thrashing of Poland, Roberto Martinez's side were without several star names including Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku for the return fixture in Warsaw.
But Belgium were mostly comfortable after Batshuayi nodded them into an early lead, with Nicola Zalewski and Karol Swiderski squandering Poland's best chances to equalise.
Martinez's team trail the Netherlands by three points with two group-stage contests remaining, meaning the two rivals could be set for a straight shoot-out for qualification when they meet in September.
Wojciech Szczesny raced off his line to deny Thorgan Hazard early on, but he was helpless when Batshuayi headed Belgium into a 16th-minute lead, the Chelsea man stooping to divert Youri Tielemans' cross into bottom-right corner.
Sebastian Szymanski sent a wild volley over from a good position after half an hour, before Eden Hazard was flagged offside having beaten Szczesny with a deft chip after racing onto Batshuayi's pass.
Although Belgium dominated much of the opening period, Zalewski went agonisingly close to levelling shortly before the break when he volleyed Robert Lewandowski's right-wing cross narrowly wide.
Thorgan Hazard almost doubled Belgium's lead when he sent a low strike wide of the left-hand post after 52 minutes, before Jan Vertonghen saw a driven cross deflected just wide of the bottom-left corner.
Swiderski twice went close to a dramatic equaliser when he forced Simon Mignolet into an acrobatic save before clipping the post with a deft header, but Belgium held on for their second Nations League win of the campaign.
What does it mean? Belgium keep Netherlands in their sights
Having been thrashed 4-1 by the Netherlands during their Nations League opener earlier this month and dropped points in a 1-1 draw with Wales last week, Martinez's men needed a victory to stay in touch with their neighbours at the top of Group A4.
Having prevented Poland from mustering a shot on target until the 87th minute, Belgium deserved a victory which keeps them in with a chance of overhauling Louis van Gaal's men to qualify for next year's finals.
Brilliant Batshuayi maintains hot streak
While Batshuayi - who has been sent out on loan five times since joining Chelsea in 2016 - has struggled for consistency at club level, the Nations League is quickly becoming his favourite competition.
Batshuayi has now contributed to eight goals in the Nations League overall, a tally only bettered by Lukaku (11), and has registered two goals and two assists in his four appearances in the 2022-23 edition.
Lacklustre Lewandowski struggles
Despite missing several of their star players, Belgium produced a disciplined defensive performance to complete a double over Czeslaw Michniewicz's team, keeping Lewandowski's influence to a minimum.
The wantaway Bayern Munich man managed the joint-fewest touches of any player the pitch in the first half (13), and over the course of the match, attempted just one shot.
Belgium's next outing is a home Nations League clash with Wales on September 22, while Poland host the Netherlands on the same day.