Brazil edge nine-man Belgium
© Foto-net

Hernanes emerged as Brazil's unlikely hero in Shenyang, smashing home a decisive late strike to see off the valiant challenge of nine-man Belgium.

This was a match that turned on the 72nd-minute dismissal of Vincent Kompany, arguably the game's outstanding player prior to receiving his marching orders, with the European underdogs only able to hold out for another seven minutes without their defensive lynchpin.

Defeat was certainly harsh on a Belgian side that, for the bulk of this match, comfortably contained a star-studded Brazilian outfit containing the likes of Ronaldinho, Diego and Alexandre Pato. The Chinese crowd began the match cheering every touch from Ronaldinho, who was skippering the Seleção, but the AC Milan star struggled to make a sustained impact and was restricted to a series of speculative long-range free-kicks.

Indeed, the best chance of the first half fell to Belgium after 27 minutes, when Diego Alves found himself stranded after rushing out to parry clear, leaving Merouane Fellaini to aim at a partially-guarded goal that he missed by a matter of millimetres.

Brazil seemed strangely bereft of ideas, but in an all too rare flash of inspiration, Ronaldinho came close to carving out an opener in 57 minutes, wriggling his way to the byline before sending in a dangerous cross that Pato couldn't quite generate enough power on to divert on target. Seconds later, play flowed to the other end, where Kevin Mirallas broke through and sent a shot flashing across the face of goal.

However, within three minutes, Belgium's hopes of snatching a sensational victory suffered a fatal blow when the impressive Kompany saw red for a second bookable offence.

Initially, Brazil remained frustrated, but with 11 minutes remaining, tenacious play from Diego paved the way for Hernanes to twist and turn his way into a shooting position, from which the Sao Paulo midfielder rifled a left-foot shot into the roof of the net. It was a terrific goal, and one which ultimately settled a match tarnished further by the 87th-minute dismissal of Merouane Fellaini by the Saudi Arabian referee Khalil Al Ghamdi.