The thrilling Group C match between India and Belgium ended in a draw, with both the sides scoring two goals each in the men's Hockey World Cup played in Bhubaneswar on Sunday. India remain as the top of Group C because of their superior goal difference.
FT. India tide over a challenging match against @BELRedLions at the Odisha Hockey Men's World Cup Bhubaneswar 2018 as an action-packed final quarter kept spectators on the edge of their seats on 2nd December 2018.#INDvBEL #IndiaKaGame #HWC2018 #DilHockey pic.twitter.com/S9nsA7Kpnq— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) December 2, 2018
Pegged back by Alenander Hendricks' goal in the eighth minute, India made a valiant comeback after the change of ends, scoring two goals in the third and fourth quarter through Harmanpreet Singh (39th) and Simranjeet Singh (47th) to take the lead. But the hosts defence faltered in the final minutes and conceded a late goal when Simon Gougnard scored in the 56th minute to draw level.
India will play Canada in their last pool match on December 8, while Belgium will be up against South Africa on the same day. Contrary to their last match, the Indians completely looked out of sorts in the opening two quarters against Belgium. The hosts lacked co-ordination in the midfield and that gave them hardly any scoring opportunities.
The Indians were slow to get off the blocks as the Red Lions dominated the proceedings in the first two quarters, threatening the hosts defence on a number of occasions. Belgium got their first scoring opportunity in the second minute in the form of back-to-back penalty corners but failed to get past the Indian defence.
Another penalty corner in the eighth minute resulted in Belgium's first goal through Hendricks, who sounded the board with a ground flick in between the legs of Indian custodian PR Sreejesh.
Seconds from the first quarter, India had their first real scoring chance when Mandeep deflected wide a Dilpreet Singh lay over from Birendra Lakra's inch-perfect pass from the midfield.
After the change of ends, the Indians changed gears and looked a completely different side. The home team looked more organised and their mid-field finally started to create opportunities.
Two minutes into the fourth and final quarter, Simranjeet scored his third goal of the tournament by tapping in from close range after being set up by Kothajit Singh's fine stick work from the left flank to hand India the lead. Belgium withdrew their goal keeper for an extra player with little less than five minutes from the hooter and their move struck gold when Gougnard scored with a slap shot in between Sreejesh's legs late into the game.India are placed in Pool C alongside reigning Olympic silver medallist Belgium, South Africa and Canada and the table toppers will directly qualify for the last-eight round.
With India notching up a 5-0 win over South Africa in their opener and Belgium beating Canada 2-1, the hosts just needed a victory over the Red Lions to secure their place in the quarters and avoid the cross-overs.
As per the format of the tournament, the table-toppers from the four pools will directly qualify for the quarterfinals while the second and third placed teams will play in the cross-overs for a place in the last-eight round.
(With PTI inputs)