Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], Feb 9 (ANI): India faced a 3-2 defeat in a high-voltage match against Belgium in the FIH Hockey Pro League at Kalinga Stadium here on Sunday.
Alexander Hendrickx (3') and Maxime Plennevaux (17' & 26') ensured Belgium's victory while goals by Vivek Sagar Prasad (15'), Amit Rohidas (17') kept India in the hunt till the final hooter.
After losing their first match of the season, World Champions Belgium ensured they made a fine start to their campaign. It was Alexander Hendrickx who was impeccable to score off a penalty corner in the third minute to give Belgium a 1-0 lead and push India on the back-foot early in the game.
But seconds before the first hooter, young gun Vivek Sagar Prasad equalised after India defender Surender Kumar set up this crucial goal, tackling past two Belgian defenders to drive in from the left flank to assist Vivek positioned in front of the goalmouth.
Both teams upped the ante in the second quarter, rallying with speed and tactical play to make quick circle penetrations. Minutes into the quarter, experienced Arthur van Doren set up the attack finding Simon Gougnard in the circle who assisted Maxime Plennevaux to score Belgium's second goal.
Hardly shaken up by Belgian's attack, 15 seconds into conceding the second goal, Lalit Upadhyay displayed excellent tackling skills to create India's first penalty corner. Though Harmanpreet Singh's dragflick bounced off Belgian defender, Amit Rohidas succeeded in picking up the rebound to score the goal and level scores 2-2. But a callous error while passing saw Harmanpreet give away possession in the 26th minute that enabled Maxime Plennevaux to score Belgium's third goal.
Though behind by a goal at half time, the 11 circle entries and six shots on goal, India had made kept them in the game.
Belgian attack continued to be ruthless as they crusaded into India's circle. PR Sreejesh, however, continued to remain the cynosure of India's defence, stepping up for the team each time Belgium made a potential attempt on goal. He made as many as four important saves that kept India in the game going into the final quarter.
Having messed up a PC opportunity in the third quarter, India made several attempts on goal in the final 15 minutes. They recorded 28 circle entries and 11 shots on goal at the end of the game while Belgium made 19 entries with 9 shots on goal. But it was Belgium who had better ball possession with 52 percent as opposed to India's 48 per cent that eventually saw them romp home with winning points.
India will next take on Australia at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium in Bhubaneswar on February 21 and 22. (ANI)