Mandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh scored in the second half to help Indian men's hockey team to a 2-0 win over an experimental Belgium side in the opening game of the three-match Test series at Antwerp on Thursday.
In a gritty first quarter, India took the initiative early, forcing the Red Lions' goalkeeper Loic van Doren into a save from the first penalty corner of the game.
Soon it was India’s turn to defend and Krishan Pathak, who started the game in the goal was up to the task, pulling off a smart save off a Belgium penalty corner to ensure the teams went into the break locked in a stalemate.
India rushed off the blocks in the second quarter and won a succession of corners within the first minute of the second quarter, but was unable to convert.
Belgium, fielding four debutants in its lineup, made the experienced Indian forwards work hard for the opener. Despite controlling a large amount of possession, India found it difficult to find a breakthrough as the teams went goalless into half-time.
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India kept the tempo up in the third period and forced van Doren into multiple saves. All the circle entries and creative play finally found it’s reward in the 39th minute as Mandeep scored to give it the lead. It was this narrow lead it carried into the final quarter.
Belgium was forced in the attack in the final quarter and almost immediately tested Sreejesh in goal. However, the veteran keeper was up to the task pulling off a succession of saves to keep his team in the lead.
India capitalised on Belgium’s attacking necessity and won two PCs but Van Doren pulled off excellent saves to keep the second goal out. In the 54th minute, Akashdeep Singh finished off a slick move to double India’s lead and seal a win as the visitor took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
India will next take on Spain on Saturday at Antwerp, which will being at 7.30 pm (IST).
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