GERMANY: The Indian men's hockey team conceded one-goal lead to go down 1-2 to Belgium in their opening match of the three-nation invitational tournament here.
Despite taking a 1-0 lead in the third quarter through a splendid penalty corner conversion by Harmanpreet Singh, India conceded two goals in the final quarter to lose the match last night. For Belgium, Cedric Charlier (52nd minute) and Tom Boon (55th minute) netted the ball.
Riding high on an impressive 5-2 win against Germany in their first match on Thursday, Belgium got off the blocks against India with vigour. However, the Indian defence led by Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and Surender Kumar, who played his 50th international match, prevented them from taking an early lead.
After ending the first quarter in a stalemate, India were quick to earn their first PC in the 19th minute. Though dragflicker Harmanpreet's attempt was well-struck and fierce, it was blocked by the Belgian defender's stick. But soon India forward Ramandeep Singh, who is back in action after an injury break, did well to win the team their second PC. He was tactical with his dribble to find the foot of Belgian defender inside the striking circle. However, Belgium goalkeeper Jeremy Gucassoff denied India an early celebration as he came up with an impressive save to keep dragflicker Harmanpreet from converting the goal.
The 10-minute break saw some vital strategic changes brought in by chief coach Roelant Oltmans and India came up with an improvised attack. It paid off as the team won its fourth PC of the match only minutes into the third quarter but Harmanpreet was unlucky yet again as his fiercely-struck flick was blocked away by the Belgian defenders. Though he was quick to get the rebound and attempted a reverse hit on goal, he was slightly off target with the ball hitting the crossbar. However, the lost attempts did little to dent his spirit and he scored in India's fifth attempt at PC, earning the much-needed 1-0 lead in the 38th minute.
The stylish dragflicker that he is, Harmanpreet struck the ball to the bottom right of the Belgium keeper giving him no chance to defend. There was plenty of action in the fourth quarter with Belgium coming back into the game by earning their first PC of the match. Though India's defence denied them a goal, Charlier succeeded in winning an equaliser for his team in the 52nd minute with a field goal.
Though Belgium won back-to-back PCs soon after, Surender Kumar was impressive in his defence to deny them the opportunity. But India ended up conceding their second goal when Boon converted a PC in the 55th minute.