Belgium edge past Men in Blue in final

New Delhi: India went down fighting to Belgium 1-2 in a thrilling final of the first leg of the four-nations invitational men’s hockey tournament at the Blake Park in Tauranga, New Zealand, on Sunday.

Tom Boon (4th minute) and Sebastien Dockier (36th) found the target for Belgium while Mandeep Singh (19th) was India’s lone goal scorer.

Belgium were quick off the blocks as they earned a penalty corner within three minutes of the game but Loick Luypaert’s drag-flick was superbly rendered ineffective by India’s first runner Chinglensana Kangujam.

Belgium, meanwhile, mounted pressure with a goal through Boon in the fourth minute.

India overcame a slow start in the second quarter as they gained momentum, creating potential circle penetrations. It was in the 19th minute when Rupinder Pal intercepted a long pass to find Manpreet in the midfield, who then sliced the ball into the centre of the circle.

Mandeep Singh was quick to react beating Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch to push the ball into the post fetching India the equaliser.

Meanwhile, goalkeeper Sreejesh P.R. made an excellent save in the 21st minute when Thomas Briels took a shot on goal, ensuring the teams went into the half-time break tied 1-1.

It was advantage Belgium as they scored at the start of the third quarter when Gauthier Boccard used a powerful reverse hit from the top of the striking circle. Sreejesh made a fine first save but Dockier was quick to pick up the rebound as he found the gap and smashed the ball past the India goalkeeper.

On January 24, India will take on hosts New Zealand in the first match of the second leg at Hamilton.