India went down 1-2 to Olympic champion Belgium in the FIH Pro League 2022-23 match at the Lee Valley Stadium in London on Friday.
Playing its first match under new coach Craig Fulton, the Harmanpreet Singh-led side fell behind in the 17th minute after a goal from Thibeau Stockbroekx.
The Men in Blue, who currently sit at the top of the points table, equalised seven minutes later courtesy Mandeep Singh.
However, with less than two minutes left in the match, Belgium’s Nelson Onana scored the winner off a penalty corner.
India started confidently and created opportunities in the first quarter. Vice-captain Hardik Singh played a key role in the attack, fetching an early shot on goal from the top of the D and shaking off the nervousness of playing against the World Cup runner-up and reigning Olympic champion. However, Belgium’s goalie Loic Van Doren was impressive in the goal post ans saved Hardik’s attempt.
With 20 seconds left in the first quarter, Belgium’s Victor Wegnez earned a penalty corner but Loick Luypaert’s dragflick was stopped by India’s first rusher Amit Rohidas.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Belgium managed to break the deadlock as it created yet another penalty corner. This time, though Sreejesh made two brilliant saves off the dragflick from Luypaert, Belgium kept the ball on rebound only to create a clever set play within the D to beat Sreejesh as Stockbroekx picked up a good assist to loft the ball into the net.
India bounced back when Vivek Sagar Prasad earned his team its first penalty corner in the 24th minute. After Harmanpreet’s powerful dragflick, the ball bounced off Belgium’s defender on the line of the goal. Mandeep Singh, lurking around the post, picked up the rebound and produced a fine finish to equalise.
Continuing to be in a gridlock, the match came down to the wire with both teams vying for that elusive goal.
India’s attack was slowed down with Belgium adapting to full press. The final two minutes of the game remained tense but Belgium found the winner off a rebound via Onana after creating a penalty corner with seconds left for the final hooter.
India next faces Great Britain on Saturday.
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