After suffering a 4-5 defeat against hosts New Zealand, Belgium came up with a clinical performance to beat India 2-0 in the second match of the Four Nations Invitational hockey Tournament at the Blake Park here on Thursday.
Goals by Sébastien Dockier (8th minute) and Victor Wegnez (34th) ensured Belgium stayed on top of the game.
Both teams played out an exciting first quarter though it was Belgium who constantly tested Indian defence, moving the ball swiftly and creating plenty of opportunities in the striking circle.
Their first big attempt came in the fourth minute when Belgian forward smashed a reverse hit to the post but Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, making a comeback from long injury haul, made an impressive save.
Four minutes later, a circle penetration by Belgium saw Sébastien Dockier demonstrate a classic reverse hit to put the ball into the post, leaving little chance for Sreejesh to do anything.
The 1-0 lead put India on the backfoot. In the 12th minute, India found a golden opportunity to equalize when forward Ramandeep Singh won the team’s first penalty corner but the ball could not be stoppped at the top of the defence.
The Belgian defence slowed down India’s attack in the second quarter. The relentless Indian forwards worked in packs as they kept up their hunt to find a successful penetration.
Seven minutes into the second quarter, India’s moment to score was created by colts Armaan, Vivek Prasad and Mandeep who worked in tandem in front of the post, forcing Belgian defenders to make an error.
This led to the second penalty corner for India. Unfortunately, Harmanpreet Singh’s dragflick was defended by Belgium’s first runner.
Minutes later, forward Ramandeep Singh made another foray into the Belgium circle, brimming hope of a conversion. But his nudge was high up. Though Mandeep got a stick on it, the ball bounced off the cross bar.
A strong circle penetration in the opening minute of the third quarter saw India win their third penalty corner but Varun Kumar’s drag flick was deflected by Belgian defender.
Minutes later, an error by Indian defenders was capitalised by Belgian Victor Wegnez who found the gap to put the ball into India’s post, taking his team’s lead to a comfortable 2-0.
India continued to fight back. Youngster Vivek Sagar Prasad ran into the top of the Belgian D, striking the ball across to the right flank but a diving Ramandeep couldn’t quite get a touch on the ball to deflect.
India won a fourth penalty corner when Ramandeep’s swift run-in through the midfield towards the striking circle forced Belgian defenders to foul.
A nice top of the circle variation fetched no result as Belgians seemed well-prepared for it and denied India a goal with good defence.
The final quarter saw India push their limits in their attack, created a few good chances, but couldn’t find a breakthrough.