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Hockey purple patch

India beat world No.1 Belgium by 2-1 at Kalinga Stadium to continue their unbeaten run
Mandeep Singh
Mandeep Singh
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PTI   |   Bhubaneswar   |   Published 08.02.20, 08:08 PM

The India men hockey team’s sensational run of form continued as it stunned world champions Belgium 2-1 to seal their third win on the trot in the FIH Pro League here on Saturday.

After defeating world No.3 Netherlands in their opening two matches of the league, India beat world No.1 Belgium at the Kalinga Stadium to continue their unbeaten run.

Mandeep Singh scored a field goal in the second minute of the match before Gauthier Boccard equalised for European champions Belgium in

the 33rd minute with a powerful drag flick from a penalty corner. Ramandeep Singh scored the decisive goal in the 47th minute via a penalty corner to give world No.4 India a victory in front of a frenzied crowd at the same venue where the home side beat the Dutch twice.

With this victory, India consolidated their ranking from No.5 to No.4 for the first time since the world ranking system was introduced in 2003.

The two sides meet again on Sunday at the same venue.

After getting off to a rollicking start in their maiden FIH Hockey Pro League with a 5-2 and 3-1 shoot-out (3-3 in regulation time) win against the Netherlands, India did well to halt Belgium’s winning streak. Coming into this match with identical 4-2 wins against Australia and 6-2 and 3-1 triumphs against New Zealand, Belgium struggled to convert their chances against India.

Despite dominating with ball possession, making as many as 38 circle entries, taking 24 shots on goal and 12 penalty corners, the Belgian unit could not muster much success inside the circle.

The Belgians were denied by Indian goalkeepers PR Sreejesh and Krishan Pathak who lived up to the billing hooter-to-hooter, backing India’s defence by knocking off pretty much every opportunity created by the visiting team.

Pathak, who was named Player of the Match, said: “We started well and worked

very hard. We are very proud of our defence of our penalty corners.”

Belgium skipper Thomas Briels rued his team’s missed chances. “It was a tough match and playing India at home is never easy. We could not convert our chances. There have been many times when penalty corners have saved us, but today the Indian goalkeepers were outstanding,” he said.

With scores reading 1-1, it was a tense final quarter but India pushed back Belgium by scoring another goal.

Though Belgium created penalty corners in the dying minutes of the match, India held their nerves and the experienced Sreejesh ensured India sealed the game to stay at second position on the points table. Belgium are on top with 11 points from five games. The victory was also India’s 50th win against Belgium.

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