Four-Nations Invitational: India goes down to Belgium

India could not capitalise on a number of chances it created; it lost 2-0 to Belgium.

Belgium struck in the 12th and 34th minute to leave India struggling.   -  Getty Images (File Photo)

India failed to convert any of its four penalty corners to end up up losing 2-0 to Belgium at the Four Nations Invitational tournament at the Blake Park here on Thursday. Goals by Sebastien Dockier (eighth minute) and Victor Wegnez (34th) ensured Belgium stayed on top of the game.

Both teams played out an exciting first quarter, though it was Belgium who constantly tested the Indian defence, moving the ball swiftly while creating plenty of opportunities in the striking circle.

Their first big attempt came in the fourth minute when Belgian forward swiftly smashed a reverse hit to the post, but goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh, who is making a comeback from a long injury haul, made an impressive save. Four minutes later, a circle penetration by Belgium saw Dockier demonstrate a classic reverse hit to put the ball into the post, leaving little chance for Sreejesh to save.

Fruitless forays

The 1-0 lead in the eighth minute put India on the back foot. In the 12th minute, however, India found a golden opportunity to equalise when forward Ramandeep Singh won the team the first penalty corner of the match, but the chance went begging, as the ball could not be stopped at the top of the D.

A compact Belgian defence slowed down India’s attack in the second quarter. But relentless Indian forwards worked in packs as they kept up their hunt to find a successful penetration.

Seven minutes into the second quarter, India’s moment to score was created by colts Armaan, Vivek Prasad and Mandeep, who worked in tandem in front of the post, forcing Belgian defenders to make an error. The attempt resulted in the second penalty corner of the match for India. However, Harmanpreet Singh’s dragflick was defended by Belgium’s first runner.

Minutes later, forward Ramandeep Singh made another foray into the Belgium circle, but his nudge was high up. Although Mandeep got a stick on it, the ball bounced off the crossbar. Belgium continued to lead 1-0 as the teams went into half time.

A strong circle penetration in the opening minute of the third quarter saw India win its third penalty corner of the match, but Varun Kumar’s drag flick was deflected by Belgian defender, denying India an equaliser. Only minutes later, an error by the Indian defence was capitalised by Belgian Victor Wegnez, who found the gap to put the ball into India’s post to extend his team’s lead in the 34th minute.

In vain

India, however, continued to fight with some gritty attempts. Vivek Sagar Prasad ran into the top of the Belgian D and struck the ball across to the right flank, but a diving Ramandeep couldn’t quite get a touch on the ball to deflect.

India later won its fourth penalty corner of the match when Ramandeep’s swift run-in through the midfield towards the striking circle forced Belgian defenders to foul. However, a nice top of the circle variation fetched no result as the Belgians seemed well-prepared for it and denied India a goal with good defence.

The final quarter saw India push its limits in its attack. It created a few good chances, but couldn’t find a breakthrough.

India will take on New Zealand in its third match of the tourney on Saturday.

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