Belgian class too much for Scotland at Hampden
Scotland were defeated but not disgraced by Belgium as they slumped to a 2-0 loss in the World Cup qualifier at Hampden.
Victory in the last qualifier in Croatia, coupled with a decent display in a friendly against England, meant morale was high within the Tartan Army ahead of this match.
But a goal in each half from Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas secured victory for Belgium and ensured they took another massive step towards Brazil by remaining at the top of Group A.
Scotland boss Gordon Strachan made three changes from the meeting at Wembley last month, with goalkeeper David Marshall, Charlie Mulgrew and Leigh Griffiths added to the side.
Marshall replaced Allan McGregor between the sticks, with the regular first choice both suspended and injured, while the back four remained the same with Alan Hutton, Russell Martin, Grant Hanley and Steven Whittaker given the nod.
As well as Mulgrew, the midfield comprised Shaun Maloney, Scott Brown, Robert Snodgrass and James Forrest, with Griffiths tasked with leading the line ahead of Jordan Rhodes.
Belgium headed into the match without injury doubt Eden Hazard, who failed to make the squad.
Belgium fired out an early warning when Kevin De Bruyne's corner was bundled just past the post from close range by Christian Benteke as the visitors exerted some early pressure.
There was another close call when Nacer Chadli whipped a tempting ball to the back post where Marouane Fellaini nodded just wide of the target, with the ball taking a slight deflection off Whittaker.
Scotland were dealt a blow when Robert Snodgrass picked up a booking after nine minutes for foul on Axel Witsel, ruling him out of next week's qualifier in Macedonia, before he was the victim of a challenge that earned Fellaini a caution moments later.
Belgium continued to press for the opener and Toby Alderweireld tried his luck with a strike from the edge of the area that Marshall claimed at the second attempt.
At the other end, Scotland had a great chance of their own when Mulgrew teed up the shot for Celtic team-mate Brown and the skipper unleashed a powerful effort that fizzed just past the post.
Marshall was called into action again on what had been a busy night for the Cardiff keeper so far when he did well to smother Witsel's volley.
But he could do nothing to prevent the breakthrough after 38 minutes when a heavy touch by Whittaker gifted Fellaini possession and he released De Bruyne down the right flank, who cut the ball back for Defour to rifle beyond the grasp of Marshall.
Belgium were keen to add to their goal after the restart and Chadli stung the palms of Marshall with a fierce shot, before Benteke drilled wide of the target.
The Scots were just as determined to haul themselves back into the match and Whittaker surged into the box only for the end product to let him down as his shot went past the post.
Hutton then went to ground under pressure from Chadli but there was no spot-kick award from Italian referee Paolo Tagliavento.
With the hour mark approaching, Snodgrass was withdrawn from the action and Ikechi Anya was handed his Scotland debut.
The Watford winger was quickly involved in the action when he burst down the left flank before picking out Maloney for an effort in front of goal he could not keep on target.
Griffiths was then swapped for Rhodes, before Nicolas Lombaerts hobbled out of the action and was replaced by Sebastien Pocognoli.
Scotland could have restored parity with 10 minutes to go when Brown squared into the path of the onrushing Rhodes, who stabbed past the post from six yards.
But there was no way back as the Red Devils doubled their lead with two minutes to go when Benteke's pass found substitute Mirallas and he shrugged off Hanley before lashing into the back of the net.