India beat Belgium 4-2; To face Pakistan in semi-final
Belgium had the psychological advantage going into their Champions Trophy quarterfinal match against hosts India having beaten the Sardar Singh-led side twice earlier this year – first 3-2 at the Hockey World League Final Round in New Delhi and then 2-1 at the World Cup in The Hague, Netherlands.
The 9th ranked Indians, who pulled off a stirring 3-2 win over 2nd ranked Netherlands in their final league tie, were hardly bothered by such statistics as they dished out an exhilarating brand of hockey to prevail over the 4th ranked Belgium side 4-2 to reach the semi-final of the Champions Trophy.
The Red Lions, who had maintained a clean slate in the league phase, did not take much time to hit the right chord, forcing their first penalty corner in the 10th minute, which resulted in a short corner after the onrushing Vokkaliga Raghunath denied them the opportunity to shoot at goal.
The noisy Kalinga Stadium crowd were subdued when Felix Denayer drilled home his drag-flick to PR Sreejesh’s right. India mounted raids from the right flank but Dharamvir Singh was denied twice by Belgium goalie Vincent Vanasch. Belgium seemed to seize the initiative when Sebastian Dockier made it 2-0 in the 18th minute, beating Sreejesh all ends up.
India woke up after conceding two goals
Trailing 0-2, India dug deep into their reserves and forced their first penalty corner – Rupinder Pal Singh fired home the set-piece to herald his team’s fightback. India were egged on by a boisterous crowd and evened the score when SK Uthappa scored in the 27th minute, tapping home a superb slide slap from Raghunath as both teams went into the half-time break with the scoreline reading 2 – 2.
Belgium gave the Indian defence a torrid time in the early stages of the third quarter and could have taken the lead again, but Florent van Aubel missed a sitter. The European side enjoyed numerical superiority as both Birendra Lakra and Rupinder Pal Singh were green-carded, but could not take advantage of it.
Undaunted by the Belgium belligerence, India pulled ahead for the first time when Akashdeep Singh slotted home after Vanasch thwarted an attempt from SV Sunil after Ramandeep Singh set it up from the baseline.
India virtually sealed the victory when Dharamvir Singh reaped the benefits of a quick counter-attack after Belgium were denied from scoring off their fourth penalty corner.
India could have been made to pay for Rupinder’s recklessness in the closing stages when he got a yellow card for his second green card of the match, but the Belgians could not inflict any damage to the 10 men.
India held firm to close out a memorable 4-2 win, to set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with arch-rivals Pakistan on Saturday. Australia play Germany in the other semifinal.