Thursday, December 11, 2014

9th ranked India upset 4th ranked Belgium 4-2, meet Pakistan in semis



This piece was published in Sportskeeda


Belgium had enjoyed the psychological advantage going into their Champions Trophy quarterfinal match against hosts India having beaten the Sardar Singh-led side twice earlier this year – first at the Hockey World League Final Round in New Delhi (3-2) and at the World Cup in The Hague (2-1).
The 9th ranked Indians who pulled off a stirring 3-2 win over 2nd ranked the Netherlands in their final league tie, were hardly bothered by all such statistics as they dished out an exhilarating brand of hockey to prevail over 4th ranked Belgium 4-2 to reach the final of the Champions Trophy.

The Red Lions, who had maintained a clean slate in the league phase, did not take much time to hit the right chord, forcing their first penalty corner in the 10th minute, which resulted in a follow-on short corner after onrushing Vokkaliga Raghunath denied them a shy at the Indian goal.

Denayor drilled home his drag-flick to the right of Sreejesh as the noisy Kalinga Stadium crowd went subdued. India mounted raids from the right flank with Dharamvir Singh being twice denied from scoring by Belgium goalie Vanasch. Belgium seemed to seize the initiative when Sebastian Dockier made it 2-0 in the 18th minute, beating Sreejesh all ends up.

Trailing 0-2, India dugged deep into their reserves and forced their first penalty corner – Rupinder Pal Singh fired home the set-piece to herald his team’s fightback. There was an extra spring in the strides of the home side, who egged on by a boisterous crowd, evened things up when SK Uthappa scored in the 27th minute, tapping home a superb slide slap from Raghunath as both teams went into the half-time break with the scoreline reading 2-2. 

Belgium gave the Indian defence a torrid time in the early stages of the third quarter with Van Aubel missing a sitter. The world number four outfit enjoyed the numerical superiority as both Birendra Lakra and Rupinder Pal Singh were green-carded,but could not take advantage of it.

Undaunted by the Belgium belligerence, India pulled ahead for the first time when Akashdeep Singh slotted home after Vanasch thwarted an attempt from SV Sunil after Ramandeep Singh set it up from the baseline. India raised the excitement level of the home crowd when Dharamvir Singh reaping the benefits of a counter-attack after Belgium were denied from scoring off their fourth penalty corner.

India surrendered a bit of the advantage in the closing stages as Rupinder got his second green card, which translated into a yellow card, but did not suffer any serious damage as they held firm to close out a memorable 4-2 win, to set up a mouth-watering semifinal clash with arch-rivals Pakistan on Saturday. Australia play Germany in the other semifinal.


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