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India enter semi-finals

Melbourne: India grimly hung on to an early lead to prevail 1-0 over Belgium to advance to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy at the State Hockey Centre, here, on Thursday.

In the semi-finals, India will meet Australia, who beat England 2-0.

In another match, Shakeel Abbasi scored two goals to help Pakistan pull off a surprise 2-1 victory over Olympic champions Germany. Pakistan will face Olympic Games silver medallists, The Netherlands, who posted a 2-0 win against New Zealand in the quarter finals.

The goal that settled the fate of the quarter final contest between India and Belgium came in the 13th minute of the first shot India had at the rival goal.

Nithin Thimmaiah capitalised on a rebound to send a firm shot into the right corner of the goal. The rebound had come to Thimmaiah on top of the circle following Gurmail Singh’s try off a cross from Birendra Lakra.

India had very few chances thereafter and were forced to fall back to defend stoutly as Belgians asserted strength in the midfield.

Belgium forced six penalty corners against India’s one.

It was because of a fine display by defenders VR Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh, beside goalkeeper TR Potunuri, that India managed to maintain their lead.

Belgium had beaten India in their last two encounters — in the final of the Champions Challenge last year and in the preliminary league of the Olympic Games in London.

India are now in the hunt for their first medal since their lone Champions Trophy bronze in 1982.

This will also be India’s highest finish since 2004 when they had lost the bronze medal match to end fourth.

In the semi-finals, India will take on the winner of the other quarter final match between four-time defending champions Australia and England.