Indian lose 1-4 to Belgium in FIH Pro League

Antwerp (Belgium), May 24 (PTI) Defensive lapses cost the Indian men’s hockey team as it went down 1-4 to hosts and world no.3 Belgium in the European leg of the FIH Pro League here.

The Harmanpreet Singh-led side had defeated Argentina 5-4 in shootout after both the teams were locked at 2-2 at the end of regulation time in the opening match here on Wednesday.

After a barren first quarter, Belgium took the lead in the 22nd minute through a field goal by skipper Felix Denayer.

Four minutes after half-time, the home side doubled its lead through a penalty corner conversion by Alexander Hendrickx.

The Indian defence was relentlessly caught off guard by the brisk passing and skillful play of the Belgians as they extended their lead in the 49th minute through another fine field goal by Cedric Charlier.

Young striker Abhishek pulled one back for India from a field effort but Belgium looked too strong as they sealed the affair in the final minute of the game when Hendrickx sounded the board from a penalty stroke.

The Indian defence looked in disarray from the word go as they failed to counter Belgium’s relentless attacks with veteran custodian PR Sreejesh cutting a lonely figure at the back.

India too had their chances and secured their first penalty corner in the 18th minute but skipper Harmanpreet’s flick was saved by Belgium goalkeeper Loick van Doren.

Two minutes later, India secured back-to-back penalty corners but an off-colour Harmanpreet failed to utilise the chances.

Belgium eventually took the lead in the 22nd minute when captain Denayer guided the ball into the goal after Sreejesh blocked the first shot from Florent van Aubel.

Belgium doubled their lead four minutes into the third quarter from a blistering counter-attack from Tanguy Cosyns, Denayer and Nicolas de Kerpel to eventually win a penalty corner, which was converted by Hendrickx through Sreejesh’s feet.

Charlier made it 3-0 in favour of Belgium in the 49th minute after receiving a long cross-field pass from Denayer, finding the bottom-right corner of Sreejesh’s goal.

India drew one back five minutes from the final hooter with a superb reverse hit strike from Abhishek to beat Van Doren .

It was not to be India’s day as they conceded a penalty stroke just before the hooter for not being 5m away when a Belgian player was receiving the ball inside the circle, and Hendrickx stepped up to seal the deal.

India skipper Harmanpreet was understandably disappointed with the performance.

“We did some good things, but the finishing wasn’t there. Defensively we need to improve, man-to-man marking needs to get better. Excited to play them again on Saturday, looking forward to improve game-by-game,” he said after the match on Thursday night.

India will again play Belgium on Saturday.

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