Tuesday, 12 December, 2017

HWL 2017: India knock-out Belgium to reach semis

While India have played brilliantly in flashes the pool matches of the Hockey World League Final saw their game fall apart at crucial junctures. Manpreet Singh and Co. would be hoping to avoid that in the quarterfinal match against Belgium on We HWL 2017: India knock-out Belgium to reach semis
Noah Ferguson | 07 December, 2017, 09:04

"Everybody gets a seven", India coach Sjoerd Marijne said after India beat Belgium 3-2 in the shootout after the thrilling 60 minutes of their World League Final quarterfinal finished 3-3 in Bhubaneswar on Wednesday.

India, knowing the flak they would receive if they misfired for a third game in a row, came out all guns blazing, just like they did against Australia. The Indian Tigers deserved the applause for the way they played to tame the Red Lions.

As the game progressed, Belgium slowly increased their tempo. Eventually both teams started having a crack at each other as action shifted from one end to another in a pulsating opening quarter.

The Indians looked menacing at the beginning of the second quarter also.

The hosts kept up the pressure and secured their first penalty corner in the fifth minute but Harmanpreet Singh's attempt was easily dealt by Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch.

Chikte blocked four Belgian attackers during the shootout, while Lalit Upadhyay, Rupinder Pal Singh and Harmanpreet Singh were on the mark for India.

"We played for nothing but a win as that is the only thing that takes you forward from here on", said a relieved India captain, Manpreet Singh, after the match. The goal silenced the noisy crowd in the Odisha capital. Luypaert was right on the money again in the 46th minute as his drag-flick went through the legs of Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera. A lucky Belgium, equalised in the 53rd minute when a Amaury Keusters goal-bound hit from within the circle was deflected into the post by Harmanpreet. A quick change of passes helped them deal with Belgium's superiority on slick ball control and one-on-one advantage. Belgians held possession and were all over India but the hosts held firm to push the match into a shoot-out.

India lead the shoot-out 2-0 after three efforts each, but Belgium forced sudden-death by scoring both of their two remaining efforts while India failed to convert. Harmanpreet converted the first attempt and Arthur van Doren chose to take charge.

Belgium send in van Doren to keep themselves in the contest, but Akash Chikte made a brilliant save, to take India through to the semifinal.

During the allotted 60 minutes, India scored through Gurjant Singh (31st minute), Harmanpreet Singh (34th) and Rupinder (46th), while Loick Luypaert (38th and 46th) converted two penalty corners to lead the Belgian fightback before Cedric Charlier (52nd) scored the equaliser after Rupinder's goal.

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