Hockey World Cup: India manages a draw against Belgium

Bhubaneswar: India recovered from a slow start to produce a superb second half performance and hold title contenders Belgium to a 2-2 draw in a crucial Pool C match of the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup here on Sunday.

India now have a  good chance  to enter the quarter-finals. The Belgians were the favorites to win this encounter, but the Indians didi a spirited comeback.

The hosts are now at the top of Pool C, edging Belgium to the second spot on goal difference. Both teams have four points after winning their respective campaign openers in contrasting fashion.

Alexander Hendrickx drew first blood for Belgium when he fired a penalty corner through the legs of Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh in the eighth minute.

Harmanpreet Singh scored the equaliser for India off a penalty stroke in the 39th minute before Simranjeet Singh put them in the lead in the 47th.

But Florent van Aubel earned a point for the 2016 Rio Olympics silver medalists when he scored Belgium’s second goal in the 56th minute.

Earlier in the day, Canada and South Africa played out a 1-1 draw in another Pool C match.

Nqobile Ntuli gave South Africa the lead in the 43rd minute before Scott Tupper (45th minute) restored parity just two minutes later.

Belgium started in explosive fashion and dominated the first half. But the Indians gradually found their rhythm and put in a much improved performance after half-time.

Belgium was challenging the Indian defence right from the start. At the other end of the pitch, the Indian forwards were finding it difficult to even penetrate into the Belgium penalty circle.

The best chance for the hosts in the opening quarter came just before the first break when an excellent pass to Mandeep Singh at the goalmouth was blocked out by Belgian goalkeeper Loic van Doren.

Most of the Indian attacks were coming down the right flank with the experienced Chinglensana Singh at the heart of many of the moves.

The Belgium defenders were hardly allowing any space to the Indians. As a result, the hosts were finding it difficult to maintain possession around the Europeans’ penalty area.

The Indian defence also was good with their man marking, but they were being stretched by the intelligent off the ball movement of the Belgian players.

Despite trailing, Belgium did well to maintain pressure on the Indian defence and was eventually rewarded for their persistence.

With just four minutes to go, Florent van Aubel silenced the crowd when he beat Sreejesh with a powerful shot from just inside the Indian penalty circle.

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