Indian men’s hockey team continued its winning streak over reigning World and European Champions Belgium with a 5-1 victory in the fifth and final match on Thursday (October 3) in Antwerp.
The squad maintained a hundred percent winning record in their Tour of Belgium while producing an attacking masterclass.
World No 5 India won all five matches during the Tour, beating Belgium 2-0 in the opening match, and registering 6-1 and 5-1 wins over Spain in the next two games, before finishing off their Tour with two more wins (2-1 and 5-1).
In the fifth match, Simranjeet Singh (7th), Lalit Kumar Upadhyay (35th), Vivek Sagar Prasad (36th), Harmanpreet Singh (42nd) and Ramandeep Singh (43rd) — all scored a goal each to earn a scintillating victory for the Indian team.
Brimming with confidence after an invincible run, India started the match on the front-foot and produced a stunning move in the 7th minute to take the lead through forward Simranjeet.
Belgium did try to force a comeback but their Penalty Corner was saved by Krishan B Pathak in the 9th minute, helping India to maintain their one-goal advantage at the first break.
The second quarter saw World No. 2 Belgium win back-to-back Penalty Corners in the 16th minute, but India’s Pathak made sure that their lead stayed intact.
It was a difficult period for the Indian team as Belgium tried to look for the equalizer. However, some resolute defending saw India take their lead into the half-time break.
The visitors started the third quarter with attacking intent, and were rewarded immediately, with Lalit Kumar Upadhyay bagging his first goal of the match in the 35th minute to extend India’s lead to 2-0.
Another attack in the next minute saw youngster Vivek Sagar Prasad also register his name on the score-sheet as he produced a crafty finish to beat the Belgian Goalkeeper.
The 38th minute saw Belgium penetrate and win a Penalty Corner, but PR Sreejesh’s diving save kept the score down to 3-0 in India’s favour. However, a brilliant strike from the retake by Alexander Hendrickx made it 3-1 in the 39th minute.
But Belgium could not stay in the match for too long as India scored twice in two minutes just before the end of the third quarter to extend their lead to 5-1.
India’s fourth goal was scored by drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh, who converted a Penalty Corner in the 42nd minute, while the fifth goal came through Ramandeep Singh, who scored in the 43rd minute to finish off a great team-move.
Playing at home, the World Champions tried to make inroads into the Indian striking circle but some strong tackling, and interceptions in the last quarter meant that the Indians maintained their 100 percent record in the five matches.
(With inputs from agencies)