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FIH Hockey Champions Trophy 2016: India go down 1-2 to Belgium

India go down 1-2 to Belgium to suffer their first defeat of the tournament.

PR Sreejesh was by far the busiest man on the field for India today

Coming off the back off a superb 2-1 victory over home side Great Britain, World No. 7 India were to take on 5th-ranked Belgium at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre after a much-needed rest day. At 4:00pm local time today, both teams came out onto the field under overcast conditions to play their third fixture of the tournament.

The first fifteen minutes offered too little to thrill the spectators who had arrived hoping to watch some riveting hockey. Despite India’s dominant 57% possession, the Europeans looked more convincing and had closer chances but neither came close to scoring before heading into the first interval.

As the showers picked up, the Belgians pushed off the second quarter action and immediately found space on the left to charge for the first breakthrough. Sreejesh came out to block Simon Gougnard’s free run who let rip a grounded shot that would’ve settled at the back of the net had it not been for Kothajit’s backwards scampering clearance off the line.

Belgium take the lead despite Sreejesh’s heroics

Soon after, PR Sreejesh was back in familiar form barring shot after shot from going in until Alexander Hendrickx’s 25th-minute low drag flick ricocheted off both his legs and slipped through to make it 1-0 for Belgium. With India’s only referral dismissed, they still hadn’t managed a penalty corner while the Belgians had already taken four.

With seconds to go until half-time, Devinder Walmiki latched onto goalkeeper Vanasch’s feeble clearance and belted a screamer into the roof of the net to equalise for India. In the run-up to the goal, Indian forward Sunil had gotten entangled with his marker Arthur Van Doren which had somewhat injured either player ahead of the break.

At halftime, scores level at 1-1

Two minutes into the second half, Belgium’s main drag-flicker was shown the yellow card for an illegal challenge which led to an Indian penalty corner. Raghunath’s back-to-back attempts were then foiled which meant India failed to capitalize on the one-man advantage for the next five minutes.

A rare failure by custodian Sreejesh at the near post in the 44th minute saw substitute Truyens’ strike regain the Belgian lead against the run of play. Trailing 1-2, the Indians showed more hunger in the 4th quarter but repeatedly conceded penalty corners that tested the defence with Mandeep sidelined with the second yellow card of the match.

India down to 10 men in crucial final quarter

Gougnard found himself one-on-one against a stranded Sreejesh but couldn’t extend the lead thanks to Raghunath’s quick retreat to steer the ball to safety. At the end, India’s ‘Wall’ was suspended for the last two minutes and defender Harmanpreet put on the bib to protect the goal while Belgium was happy in possession to see out the remaining few seconds to hand India their first defeat of the 2015 Hockey Champions Trophy with a 2-1 scoreline.

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