The Indian men’s hockey team kicked off their European tour with victory.
Strikers Mandeep Singh and Akashdeep Singh were on target as India began their tour of Belgium with a 2-0 win over the world champions in Antwerp on Thursday.
The match started in a cagey manner with neither side allowing each other any scope to settle well. With goalkeeper Loic Van Doren in top form for the hosts, denying India’s attempts at the goal without much fuss, the visitors’ attack took its time to find a way past the packed Belgian defence.
This allowed Belgium to build attacks at will. But with the backline alert and goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, who started in place of PR Sreejesh, on his toes, finding a way into the goal was anything but easy for the opposition.
The two ’keepers were at their very best and ensured that the teams went into the quarter break with the deadlock still to be broken.
The Indian team got straight into the act at the restart, as Belgium allowed their opponents two successive penalty corners within the first minute.
However, the Indians could not find a breakthrough despite enjoying a majority of possession and the scoreline remained unaltered at half-time.
Coach Graham Reid’s half-time team talk seemed to work wonders as the Indians were more clinical in the second half, forcing Van Doren into multiple saves. And it was no surprise that they got the lead soon after with Mandeep sounding the board in the 39th minute.
Riding on this narrow advantage, the visitors forced Belgium to go all-out in the attack in the final quarter. But this time, PR Sreejesh, who replaced Pathak at half-time, used all his experience to thwart any attack on his goal.
India chose to stay back and work on the counter-attacking opportunities that came their way.
Though Van Doren was in top form, denying India time and again the 22-year-old was beaten once more as Akashdeep’s deft touch saw the ball home for India’s second.
India will play their second of three matches against Belgium on September 28th.
The series is serving as part of their preparations for their Olympic qualifying double header against Russia in Bhubaneswar on November 1-2.