Bhubaneswar: Last-moment complacency haunted India again as the Men in Blue were held to an exciting 2-2 draw by Belgium in a keenly-contested high voltage Pool C encounter of the Men’s Hockey World Cup at the Kalinga Stadium here Sunday.
Alexander Hendrickx (eighth minute) put the Belgians up front before Harmanpreet Singh (39th) converted a penalty stroke to bring the match on level terms. Simranjeet Singh (47th) gave India a 2-1 lead, but Simon Gougnard (56th) ensured Belgium bag one point.
The Red Lions attacked from the word go and got a penalty corner as early as the second minute. But Loick Luyparet’s flick was saved on the line. Belgium continued their game at a blistering pace. Kothajit Singh stole the ball, but India couldn’t capitalise on that and lost possession again.
Belgium took the full advantage and got their second penalty corner. Hendrickx dully converted it in the eighth minute to give the Red Lions a solitary lead.
The Belgians continued to enjoy a lot of possession, but the Indian defence stood tall. The visitors created another chance in the 13th minute, but Charlier failed to have the right flick at the goal mouth against a struggling PR Sreejesh. India came back well, but Mandeep Singh missed a sitter in the last minute. Barring few chances, the first quarter completely belonged to the visitors.
Belgium looked dangerous in the second quarter as well. India had a task at hand and they responded well. But Akashdeep Singh got a green card in the spur of the moment in the 21st minute. Belgium earned a long corner in the 22nd minute and Mandeep tried to sneak in to the attacking circle, but Boccard intercepted.
Indians were pegged back in their own circle and Belgium pressed ahead. Despite getting major possession the Red Lions were unable to penetrate Indian defence. Gougnad’s clever deflection missed the target by a whisker in the 27th minute. The Indian defence was being stormed time and again. The second quarter was barren, but Belgium were leading 1-0 at the break.
India tried to make amends after the change of ends and pressed harder. Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch took Dilpreet Singh’s shot on his body after narrowing the angle. India got their first penalty corner in the 35th minute. Vanasch made a fabulous save again by his stick to a strong flick of Harmanpreet.
India were relentless on their attack and they got their second penalty corner in the 38th minute. Belgium faltered several times at the goalmouth and India were awarded a penalty stroke. Harmanpreet made no mistake in the minute to draw level. Bolstered by the equaliser India got ascendancy all of a sudden. Luypaert came to the rescue for the visitors in the 40thminute. The third quarter belonged to the Men in Blue. They made a stunning comeback to take the maximum possession. They also restored parity and were at their attacking best.
In the fourth quarter India picked up momentum. The hosts doubled the lead in the two minutes into the final quarter when Kothajit found Simranjeet, positioned behind the Belgian defender at the far post. But India failed to hold on their lead against the resurgent Red Lions.
They attacked relentlessly, and Gougnard got the Lions back in the 56th minute by restoring parity. India tried their best to break the deadlock desperately during the dying hours, but failed in their attempt to do so. The match ended in a deadlock much to the disappointment of 15,000 capacity audience.