men’s hockey World Cup: world no. 5 India to take the top place in Pool C
Odhisa: Hosts India created a spirited effort to eke out a 2-2 draw against Olympic silver medalists Belgium in an evenly-contested Pool C match of the men’s hockey World Cup here on Sunday.
Pegged back by Alexander Hendricks’ goal in the 8- minute, India made a brave comeback after the adjust of ends, took two goals in the third and fourth quarter through Harmanpreet Singh (39th) and Simranjeet Singh (47th) to take the lead.
But the hosts’ defence wamble in the final minutes and conceded a late goal when Simon Gougnard scored in the 56th minute to draw level.
The draw, however, enable world no. 5 India to take the top place in Pool C ahead of Belgium on goal difference. Both squads have a win and a draw from two outings.
India had earlier blanked South Africa 5-0 in their starter, while world no. 3 Belgium pulled off a close 2-1 win over Canada.
India will face Canada in their last pool match on December 8, while Belgium will be up against South Africa on the same day.
Contrary to their last match, the Indians completely looked out of sorts in the opening two quarters against Belgium.
The hosts lacked adjustment in the midfield and that gave them hardly any scoring chances.
The Indians were slow to get off the blocks as the Red Lions dominated the proceedings in the first two quarters, aggressive the hosts’ defence on a number of occasions.
Belgium got their first scoring opportunity in the second minute in the form of back-to-back penalty corners but unsuccessful to get past the Indian defence.
Another penalty corner in the 8-minute resulted in Belgium’s first goal through Hendricks, who sounded the board with a ground flick in between the legs of Indian custodian P R Sreejesh.
Seconds from the first quarter, India had their first genuine get chance when Mandeep turn aside wide a Dilpreet Singh layover from Birendra Lakra’s inch-perfect pass from the midfield.
Five minutes into the second quarter, Dilpreet Singh shot wide from top right after being fed by Captain Manpreet Singh.
Two minutes from half-time, Tom Boon came tantalizingly close to doubling Belgium’s lead when his neat deflection struck the post and went out.
But after the change of ends, the Indians changed gears and looked a completely different side.
The home squad looked more organized and their mid-field finally started to create opportunities.
Three minutes into the third quarter, Dilpreet was denied by Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch from close range after being fed by Simranjeet.
Two minutes later India earned their first penalty corner and it took a gem of saving from Vanasch to keep Harmanpreet Singh’s powerful high flick out of the target.
Minutes later, Belgium had an opportunity but an alert Sreejesh denied Cedric Charlier. India’s relentless pressure earned them back-to-back penalty corners in the 39th minute, the second of which resulted in a penalty hit which was ably converted by Harmanpreet to draw parity for the hosts.
Two minutes into the fourth and final quarter, Simranjeet scored his third goal of the contest by beating in from close range after being set up by Kothajit Singh’s fine stick work from the left flank to hand India the lead.
Thereafter, the match witnessed end-to-end attacking stuff with both the squads pressing hard in search of the decisive goal.
Belgium withdrew their goalkeeper for an extra player with the end of the five minutes from the hooter and their move hit gold when Gougnard scored with a slap shot in between Sreejesh’s legs late into the game.
The Indians made a few impressive moves in the remaining few minutes but Belgium defended stoutly despite the absence of their goalkeeper to share the spoils.