Manpreet Singh celebrating a goal with a teammate. (Photo/Hockey India Twitter)
Manpreet Singh celebrating a goal with a teammate. (Photo/Hockey India Twitter)

India beat Belgium 2-1 in FIH Hockey Pro League

ANI | Updated: Feb 08, 2020 20:44 IST

Bhubaneswar (Odisha) [India], Feb 8 (ANI): Indian men's hockey team defeated Belgium 2-1 in the FIH Hockey Pro League 2020 at Kalinga Stadium here on Saturday.
Mandeep Singh (2') and Ramandeep Singh (46') scored for India against the World Champions. With this sensational victory, India consolidated their world ranking from number five to four for the first time since 2003.
India did well to halt the world number one's winning streak in the on-going FIH Hockey Pro League 2020. Coming into this match with (2-2) 4-2 and 4-2 win against Australia and a splendid 6-2 and 3-1 win against New Zealand, Belgium struggled to convert their chances against India.
Despite dominating with ball possession, making as many as 38 circle entries, taking 24 shots on goal and 12 penalty corners, the Belgian unit could not muster much success in the circle, thanks to stand-out performance by Indian goalkeepers PR Sreejesh and Krishan Pathak who lived up to the billing hooter-to-hooter, backing India's defence by knocking off pretty much every opportunity created by the Belgian strikers.
India were quick to get off the blocks with debutant Raj Kumar Pal setting up a fantastic goal within 90 seconds of play as he passed from the left flank to Dilpreet Singh on top of the circle.
Young forward Dilpreet, making his comeback in the Indian squad after over a year, took a powerful shot on goal which found a perfect deflection from Mandeep Singh, who was positioned in front of Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch.
Although striker Mandeep Singh put India ahead in the first quarter, it was Krishan Pathak who ensured Belgium did not bounce back. He was kept busy all of 15 minutes in the first quarter with Belgium creating plenty of opportunities, which included as many as five penalty corners.
India almost threatened to double their lead in the 12th minute when Ramandeep Singh and Raj Kumar Pal teamed up in the circle but could not find success.
Belgium's wait to convert a goal ended only in the third quarter when they made a good variation of a penalty corner, opening up the angle to trick India's rushers and made enough space for Gauthier Boccard to put the ball past Pathak to level scores in the 33rd minute.
With scores reading 1-1, it was a tense final quarter but India pushed back Belgium by scoring another goal. It was Ramandeep, who after injecting the ball during a penalty corner battery, picked up a rebound off Belgium's first rusher to score the goal.
Though Belgium created penalty corners in the dying minutes of the match, India held their nerves and experienced goalkeeper Sreejesh ensured India sealed the game and earned the winning points to stay at the second position in the FIH Hockey Pro League points table. Belgium are still on top with 11 points from 5 games.
This was India's 50th win against Belgium and the most memorable one as it has helped the team consolidate the position of world number four pushing defending Olympic Champions Argentina to five.
Pathak was adjudged Player of the Match for his brave performance. India will take on Belgium at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium on Sunday, February 9. (ANI)