Bhubaneswar: World No.1 Belgium came-up with dominating performance to beat India 3-2 in a high-voltage match here at the on-going FIH Hockey Pro League on Sunday.
Goals by Alexander Hendrickx (3′), and Maxime Plennevaux (17′ & 26′) that ensured Belgium’s victory while goals by Vivek Sagar Prasad (15′), and Amit Rohidas (17′) kept India in the hunt till the final hooter.
After losing their first match of the season, world champions Belgium ensured they made a fine start to their campaign.
It was Hendrickx who scored off a penalty corner in the 3rd minute to give Belgium a 1-0 lead and push India on the backfoot early in the game. But seconds before the first hooter, young gun Prasad equalised after India defender Surender Kumar set up this crucial goal, tackling past two Belgians defenders to drive in from the left flank to assist Prasad positioned in front of the goal mouth.
Both teams upped the ante in the second quarter, rallying with speed and tactical play to make quick circle penetrations. Minutes into the quarter, experienced Arthur van Doren set up the attack finding Simon Gougnard in the circle who assisted Plennevaux to score Belgium’s second goal.
Hardly shaken up by Belgian’s attack, 15 seconds into conceding the second goal, Lalit Upadhyay displayed excellent tackling skills to create India’s first PC. Though Harmanpreet Singh’s dragflick bounced off Belgian defender, Rohidas succeeded on picking up the rebound to score the goal and level scores 2-2. But a callous error while passing saw Harmanpreet give away possession in the 26th minute that enabled Plennevaux score Belgium’s third goal.
Though behind by a goal at half time, the 11 circle entries and six shots on goal India had made kept them in the game and as Chief Coach Graham Reid pointed out, they had to show better ball possession in the second half to find success.
But Belgian attack continued to be ruthless as they crusaded into India’s circle. P.R. Sreejesh, however, continued to remain the cynosure of India’s defence, stepping up for the team each time Belgium made a potential attempt on goal. He made as many as four important saves that kept India in the game going into the final quarter.
Having messed up a PC opportunity in the third quarter, India made several attempts on goal in the final 15 minutes. They recorded 28 circle entries and 11 shots on goal at the end of the game while Belgium made 19 entries with 9 shots on goal.
But it was Belgium who had better ball possession with 52 per cent as opposed to India’s 48 per cent that eventually saw them romp home with winning points. India will next take on Australia on February 21 and 22 at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium.