Men's FIH Pro League 2020: India go down fighting against World Champions Belgium
After beating the Netherlands in their first round of Pro League matches, the Indians have now registered one win and a loss against Belgium in the Men's Pro League 2020 after going down fighting by a 2-3 margin against the World No. 1 side on Sunday.
Coach Graham Reid expected the opposition to fire on all cylinders after losing the first encounter against India by a 1-2 margin and the Red Lions roared after thwarting the now-customary early Indian foray.
Alexander Hendrickx, who ended up as the highest PC scorer in the inaugural edition of the Pro League, put the World Champions in the lead as early as the third minute.
Not to be undone, the Indians kept their composure with Surender Kumar displaying some brilliant stickwork to keep the visitors on their toes.
The Indians engaged in a mix of forward and backward passes using the width of the field to stretch the Belgian defence before Surender angled one in for Vivek Prasad to latch on to, and the young prodigy made no mistake in the fifteenth minute to get his side back on level terms.
The Indians, who have an affinity for engaging in speedy vertical runs, preferred to exert pressure with vertical passes instead and made good use of either flank.
An outrageous slip-in goal squeezed in by Maxime Plennevaux early in the second quarter was cancelled out by Amit Rohidas who fired in a deflection off a PC which was earned as a result of some sublime skill from Lalit Upadhyay, who weaved his way dangerously into the striking circle before finding a Belgian foot.
Nicolas De Kerpel then found Plennevaux who dived full length to beat Kishan Pathak after a rare defensive lapse from the Indians.
Mandeep Singh had a golden chance to draw level with a couple of minutes to go before the long breather, but he was dispossessed in the nick of time by Alexander Hendrickx and the Belgians left the pitch leading 3-2.
The Indians earned a PC early in the third quarter after Ramandeep Singh found the foot of Hendrickx - and, although the short corner was wasted, Ramandeep had another opportunity almost immediately thereafter but shot wide.
Sreejesh did well to close down Antoine Kina after the Belgians capitalized on a wasted PC effort by the Indians to launch a quick counter while Vincent Vanasch did well to deny the Indians who searched in vain for the elusive equalizer.
The second half produced no goals for either side, with some brilliant defending at both ends of the pitch.
The Indians created a lot more chances than their higher-ranked counterparts, with 11 shots on goal to Belgium's 9, and visited the Belgian circle on 28 occasions whilst allowing the visitors just 19 entries into theirs.
The Indians now have 8 points from 4 matches while the Belgians lead the table with 14 points from 6 games.
The Indians will take on Australia on February 21 and 22.Published 09 Feb 2020, 19:37 IST