In Sweden’s Euro qualifier against Belgium, Zlatan Ibrahimovic made European history, but Romelu Luaku, a former teammate from Manchester United, ultimately stole the show.
On Friday night, the Swede broke Dino Zoff’s 30-year record by playing in European Championship qualifiers at the age of the oldest player.
But Belgium’s Lukaku stole the show in Stockholm from Ibra, who was 41 years old and 172 days old.
When Austria, led by Marcel Sabitzer, won Group F, Lukaku, 29, scored a magnificent hat-trick at the Friends Arena to lead Domenico Tedesco’s team to second place.
Ibrahimovic, who last week for AC Milan became the oldest Serie A scorer ever, came off the bench with his team down by two goals after 73 minutes.
And both goals, his 69th and 70th for the Red Devils, were both scored by Lukaku, who is currently on loan from Chelsea to Inter Milan.
And in the closing minutes, he increased that total to 71, giving new manager Domenico Tedesco a sizable victory in his inaugural contest.
Dodi Lukebakio helped former Manchester United player Lukaku set up his first goal in the 35th minute and his second goal four minutes after the half.
The 50,000 spectators at Friends Arena gave Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s entrance, when he came in to replace Alexander Isak of Newcastle, the loudest cheer of the evening.
With the armband as Belgium’s captain, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne found Yannick Carrasco at the far post, but his shot was diverted away for a corner.
In 14 minutes, Dejan Kulusevski of Tottenham narrowly missed giving Sweden the lead when his shot eluded Thibault Courtois.
Nevertheless, Leicester’s Wout Faes cleared the ball barely in time as Israeli referee Orel Grinfeld waved aside the objections despite the home team’s players and supporters yelling that the ball had crossed the line.
Then, Belgium came close as Aston Villa‘s Robin Olsen deflected a header from Arthur Theate over the crossbar.
But, after 35 minutes, the Red Devils took the lead. Lukebakio, a winger for Hertha Berlin, had been Belgium’s top performer in the opening period.
And even though the goal appeared to scrape Lukaku’s shoulder on its way in, he delivered a magnificent cross from which the striker climbed to score.
Four minutes after the interval, Belgium once again suffered a terrible double-act.
With a burst of speed, Lukebakio squirmed his way down the goal line, and from his ferociously driven cross, Lukaku got the crucial touch from a yard away.
The home crowd briefly cheered when Zlatan Ibrahimovic made a cameo, but the joy didn’t last long as Lukaku scored with seven minutes left following superb work from replacement Johan Bakayoko.