London:The Indian men’s hockey team suffered their first defeat of the Champions Trophy tournament as they went down 1-2 at the hands of Belgium in their pool encounter on Monday.
Belgium were the first to edge the break through, with a penalty corner in the first minute of the match.Easily negotiated by the defence, that sparked the Indian forward line to life, as they broke away on the counter. Talwinder Singh received the first clearance on the line inside India’s half and cut in fast, before laying the ball off to Danish Mujtaba on the left in acres of space. Danish’s cross in was inch perfect too, in the danger area, and it took a sharp deflection off a desperate Belgium stick, only to go wide.
The closest either team came to break the deadlock was when Simon Gougnard missed an opening goal, putting the ball over the bar after Devinder Walmiki put the forward under pressure. The teams went into the break tied at 0-0.
Belgium started strongly in the second quarter too, and it took another heroic piece of defending, this time from Kothajit, who cleared off the line in the second minute. Sreejesh was called into action for the first time a few minutes later, and pulling off a double save, first off the drag flick and then the rebound to frustrate the Belgians.
Belgium finally broke the deadlock in the 25th minute when Alexander Hendrickx scored a penalty corner to give his team the lead. It was the first time India had gone down by a goal in the tournament.
With 40 seconds left, India equalised. Sunil under pressure in the midfield passed the ball out to Manpreet on the right side, and Manpreet’s hard hit cross was padded out by Vincent Vanasch in Belgium’s goal towards the top of the circle. Devinder Walmiki met that ricochet perfectly though, hitting it into the roof of the net first time, to draw India level going into the break.
The third quarter was played on an even note as both teams looked to not concede cheaply and played mostly on the counter. With a minute of the quarter left Belgium regained the lead, Jerome Truyens the scorer.
The game took a physical edge in the final quarter, as India attacked furiously looking for the equaliser. Crucial saves by Sreejesh in the dying moments, kept India in the game, and gave hope for an equaliser and a point to keep them at the top end of the table. Belgium held on though, to consign India to their first loss of the tournament.
India will now lock horns with South Korea on Tuesday. (ANI)