Updated May 26th, 2024 at 00:29 IST

Indian men's hockey team loses to Belgium in shootout after 2-2 draw in regulation time

India, ranked sixth in the world, lost 1-3 in the shootout to take one point. World number three Belgium secured two points, including the bonus point for winning the shootout.

India vs Belgium | Image:X@Hockeyindia
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The Indian men's hockey team produced a vastly improved performance than its previous match as it lost to reigning Olympic champions Belgium in the shootout after the two sides were locked 2-2 in the regulation time in the FIH Pro League here on Saturday.

India, ranked sixth in the world, lost 1-3 in the shootout to take one point. World number three Belgium secured two points, including the bonus point for winning the shootout.

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Araijeet Singh Hundal put India in the lead in the 11th minute with a fine field goal before Felix Denayer (30th minute) restored parity just a few seconds before half time off a penalty corner.

Florent Van Aubel put Belgium ahead for the first time in the match with a 50th minute goal from a penalty corner but Sukhjeet Singh (57th) equalised three minutes before the end of regulation time.

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In the shootout, only Sukhjeet Singh scored for India, while Vivek Sagar Prasad, Abhishek and Araijeet Singh Hundal missed.

For Belgium, William Ghislain, Florent Van Aubel and Gauthier Boccard found the target while Arthur De Sloover missed.

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India had lost to the same opponents 1-4 in their earlier match on Friday. Before that, the Harmanpreet Singh-led Indian side had defeated Argentina 5-4 in shootout on Wednesday.

It was Belgium's aggressive goalkeeping that saw them through the thrilling encounter where India went all-out to avenge their previous match defeat.

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India got off to a fine start with dominant display of ball possession and well-organised foray into the opposition circle.

Though young forward Abhishek's first shot on goal in the opening minutes found no success, he teamed up with Sanjay to help India win their first penalty corner of the match as early as in the ninth minute.

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Skipper Harmanpreet Singh came up with a good flick but an experienced Vincent Vanasch saved it well. Building on this momentum in their attack, India drew first blood in the 11th minute when young forward Araijeet Singh Hundal scored a brilliant field goal.

A well-timed aerial ball by Manpreet Singh from the midfield was picked up superbly by Sukhjeet Singh, who then unleashed a powerful shot on goal and an alert Hundal gave it the finishing touches with a perfect deflection to put it past Vanasch.

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The final moments of the first quarter saw India put up a spirited defence, led by keeper Krishan Pathak who made a fine diving effort to save Cedric Charlier's reverse hit.

India went into the second quarter with improvised attacks as young guns Sukhjeet and Abhishek continued to impress. They managed to fetch India their second PC, which was well-taken by Jugraj Singh but the Belgian defence was too strong to break.

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Though India created several chances in this quarter where they could have taken the scoreline to 2-0, they instead ended up conceding a goal seconds before the half-time hooter.

It was an infringement in the circle that gave away a PC. While Alexander Hendrickx's drag-flick was saved by Pathak, he could do little to stop Denayer who picked up the high rebound to get the ball in.

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After the ten-minute half-time break, India took the intensity of the game up a notch. Manpreet Singh made a stupendous defensive interception to prevent a shot on goal from Nelson Onana.

The following minutes in the third quarter saw both teams trade chances in their respective circles but they remained goal-less with the score continuing to read 1-1.

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Vanasch remained Belgium's bulwark in defence as he made a fine save to stop Gurjant Singh's diving deflection from the right only seconds before the third quarter ended.

The final quarter saw Belgium's attackers test the Indian defence. While their PC in the initial minutes of the fourth quarter was denied after a referral by India, a defensive error in the following minutes gave away a PC to the home side.

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This time, Florent Van Aubel was on fire. His backhand touch after Hendrickx's drag-flick was saved by Sreejesh gave Belgium a 2-1 lead.

However, this 50th-minute goal did not dent India's spirit as they continued their hunt for an equalizer in full gusto. It was captain Harmanpreet who led India's resurgence.

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Playing up the field, he received the ball at the top of the circle and turned around to send a brilliant pass to Sukhjeet whose one-handed deflection earned India that elusive equaliser.

India play Argentina again on Sunday. 

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Published May 26th, 2024 at 00:29 IST