Tauranga (New Zealand): The Indian men’s hockey team failed to convert any of the four penalty corners and ended up losing 0-2 to Belgium at the Four Nations Invitational tournament at the Blake Park in Tauranga, New Zealand, on Thursday.
Goals by S bastien 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 the Indian defence, moving the ball swiftly while creating plenty of opportunities in the striking circle.
Their first big attempt came in the fourth minute when Belgian forward swiftly smashed a reverse hit to the post but goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who is making a comeback from a long injury haul, made an impressive save.
Four minutes later, a circle penetration by Belgium saw Dockier demonstrate a classic reverse hit to put the ball into the post, leaving little chance for Sreejesh to save.
The 1-0 lead in the eighth minute put India on the backfoot.
A compact Belgian defence slowed down India’s attack in the second quarter. But 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.
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. Belgium continued to lead 1-0 as the teams went into the half-time.
A strong circle penetration in the opening minute of the third quarter saw India win their third PC of the match, but Varun Kumar’s drag flick was deflected by Belgian defender, denying India an equaliser.
Only minutes later, an error by the Indian defence was capitalised by Belgian Victor Wegnez who found the gap to put the ball into India’s post to take his team’s lead to a comfortable 2-0 in the 34th minute.
The final quarter saw India push their limits in their attack, created a few good chances, but couldn’t find a breakthrough.
India will take on New Zealand in their third match on Saturday.