Bhubaneswar: Strong performances from goalkeepers Krishan Pathak and PR Sreejesh coupled with some nifty work from the forwards whenever they got the chance helped India beat world champions and world no.1 Belgium 2-1 in the first match between the two sides in the FIH Pro Hockey League on Saturday. Mandeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh were on target as India recorded their third Pro League win at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
As was the case in their first match against the Netherlands, India scored early in the first quarter. Mandeep Singh deflected a drag flick from the edge of the D by Dilpreet Singh to put the hosts ahead at the end of a counter attack.
It was all Belgium after and Krishan Pathak made save after save to keep his team ahead. The world champions would get three penalty corners in the first half, all of which were turned away by the Indian defence. PR Sreejesh followed up Pathak's good work in the second quarter and the first half ended 1-0 in India's favour.
Belgium scored early in the second half to draw level with Gauthier Boccard's drag flick leaving Pathak with no chance. They both hit the top corner. Hardik Singh came close to scoring four minutes later, slipping between two Belgian defenders to be clear on goal. But goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch made a brilliant save to keep things level.
Six minutes later, India found the back of the net off a penalty corner. But the goal was disallowed after the TV umpire determined that the ball had been stopped inside the 22 yard line.
Pathak made a brilliant save to deny Belgium a minute before the end of the third quarter to keep things level and the fourth quarter started on 1-1.
India got a penalty corner early in the fourth quarter. Harmanpreet Singh's drag flick hit Victor Wegnez's foot and fell to Ramandeep at the near post, who only had to tap it into the goal to give India the lead. Belgium got back to back penalty corners immediately after, which Sreejesh did well to keep out.
Belgium were unable to dominate possession the way they did in the first quarter and the match ended in a flurry of penalty corners. India kept out the two that Belgium got, the last of which was seconds before the hooter went off.
The win takes India to second on the Pro League standings, behind top ranked Belgium. They have eight points out of a possible nine in their first three matches while Belgium have 11 points out of a possible 15.
The second game will be played at 5 p.m. at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday.