HWL: India defeat Belgium 3-2 in thrilling penalty shoot-out, enter semis
Men in Blue edge past Belgium 3-2 via penalty shoot-out to enter semi-finals
In a massive upset, India tore apart the form book to beat Olympic silver medallists Belgium in sudden death 3-2 and enter the semi-finals of the Hockey World League Final here yesterday. Belgium, unbeaten in the pool matches and also the World No. 2 collapsed under the sustained pressure even though one needs to give credit to the Red Lions for the comeback after being 0-2 down. They fought back to 2-2 before Rupinder Pal Singh gave India a 3-2 lead. Belgium came back level at 3-3 and the match headed towards a shoot-out. Even there it was locked 2-2.
Jubilant Indian players celebrate with goalkeeper Akash Chikte (yellow jersey) after their win over Belgium in the penalty shoot-out during the Hockey World League quarters tie in Bhubaneswar yesterday. Pic/PTI
Then in the sudden death Harmanpreet Singh flicked in before Akash Chikte saved Arthur van Doren's shot. By then, Indian fans, already churned through an emotional roller-coaster through the match, let loose, screaming and cheering with delight. It was a crowd outburst not probably seen before at The Kalinga Stadium. India's semi-final opponents will come from the winner of today's quarter-final clash between England and Olympic champions Argentina. A minute into the second half and Gurjant Singh pushed home from close range to give India the lead. Four minutes later, it was doubled, thanks to a ferocious penalty corner flick from Harmanpreet Singh. But the Belgians fought back to score twice either side of the third quarter break; penalty corners off the stick of Loick Luypaert taking his goal tally to an amazing eight in four matches. Rupinder Pal Singh scored a penalty corner to give India a 3-2 lead but a deflected goal from Belgium's Amaury Keusters took the score to 3-3 and forced the match into a thrilling shoot-out.
After three efforts it was 2-0 for India but Belgium roared back forcing sudden-death by scoring both of their two remaining efforts while India failed to convert. Harmanpreet Singh scored what eventually was the winner while Van Doren was unable to beat India goalkeeper Chikte. SV Sunil, who had a wonderful match even though he missed a couple of sharp chances, said India was thirsting for revenge after the Rio defeat in the quarter-final. "We played well and this win will do a lot to the confidence of the team," he said. "Hopefully, we will now play with more energy and win the semi-final."