BELO HORIZONTE – Lanky midfielder Marouane Fellaini put a miserable season for Manchester United behind him with a fine headed goal for Belgium on Tuesday to spark a revival in their 2-1 win against Algeria at the World Cup.
After regularly netting in the English Premier League at Everton, the 26-year-old Fellaini failed to score once during his debut season at Manchester United. Yet all that was forgotten in the Brazilian sunlight at Belo Horizonte's Mineirao stadium when Fellaini came on as a second half substitute to deftly flick a Kevin De Bruyne cross into the top of the net and cancel out Algeria's opener.
Surging forward and using his height and strength to make a nuisance of himself in the box as the Africans wilted in the final quarter of the Group H match, Fellaini played a huge part in the turnaround for Belgium. "We suffered a bit in the first half. We had our problems against a good Algerian team but at the end we won which is all that matters," Fellaini told reporters after celebrating in front of fans on the pitch.
Familiar around the world due to his outsized Afro hairstyle, Fellaini dedicated the goal to travelling relatives. "It was important because we were a goal down at that moment. This is for my family who came all the way to see me here," he said. Algeria coach Vahid Halilhodzic was generous in his praise of Fellaini, saying his team became exhausted and had no answer for Belgium's substitutes.
"Fellaini is one of the best headers in Europe, he gives a plus to the team, he made all the difference," he said. Belgium coach Marc Wilmots said his intention was always to bring on Fellaini in the second half after using other players to first grind down Algeria. "Yes, I could have used him from the start, but it was important to have a technical team to keep ball possession," he said. "I knew the moment would come, we had to stay calm."