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India begin with a defeat

The Hague: India’s shaky defence conceded a goal 15 seconds from the hooter to go down 2-3 against Belgium in their opening game of the hockey World Cup, at the Kyocera Stadium, here, on Saturday.

The Indian defenders allowed space inside the circle to the Belgians, who were frustrated and under pressure after being tied 2-2 going into the final minute of play.

The last-gasp attempt by Belgium saw the ball being switched around to leave the Indians confused and John-John Dohmen managed to push the ball over the goal-line in a scrimmage. The last-minute goal undid India’s good show in the second session when they rallied from a one-goal deficit to lead 2-1.

In another Group A match, holder Australia launched the defence of their title with a 4-0 drubbing of Malaysia.

Belgium took the lead in the 34th minute through Florent van Aubel before India scored two field goals through Mandeep Singh (45th minute) and Akashdeep Singh (50th).

Belgium equalised through Simon Gougnard in the 56th minute when he converted a penalty corner. India, though, didn’t get bogged down and went all out in search of the elusive winner, creating plenty of openings. But Dohmen’s winner in the final minute put paid to their hopes.

Belgium dominated the game from the beginning, pushing Indian players to fall back into their own half to strengthen the defence.

While the Indian defenders did well to deny the rival strikers space, P.R. Sreejesh played an outstanding game under the bar and blocked two good shots. But Sreejesh’s efforts were undone when he was beaten just a minute before half-time.

Arthur van Doren’s diagonal ball into the circle was deflected by van Aubel into the right corner of the Indian goal past the outstretched arm of the custodian.

The Indian team felt the ball had gone off van Doren’s foot and sought a video review, but the goal was upheld after being reviewed twice.