Belgium, ranked second in the world, took the lead in the 18th minute with a goal from Thibeau Stockbroekx. However, India managed to equalize in the 25th minute through Mandeep Singh‘s goal.
The match remained evenly poised until the final minutes when the Indian defence faltered and conceded a few penalty corners. In the 60th minute, Belgium’s Nelson Onana converted one of these penalty corners, securing the victory for his team.
Throughout the game, both teams displayed strong performances, matching each other in terms of skills and gameplay. India had an early opportunity in the fifth minute, but Belgium goalkeeper Loic van Doren made an impressive save to deny Hardik Singh’s shot from the top of the circle.
Towards the end of the first quarter, Belgium earned a penalty corner, which was effectively defended by the Indian backline.
Despite the loss, India showcased their competitive spirit against the reigning Olympic champions, setting the stage for further exciting encounters in the FIH Men’s Hockey Pro League.
Belgium secured back-to-back penalty corners in the 18th minute and Stockbroekx broke the deadlock from the second chance, deflecting in Loïck Luypaert’s feed after India goalkeeper PR Sreejesh made a double save.
It took India seven minutes to draw parity through an opportunist Mandeep who tapped home from a rebound after skipper Harmanpreet Singh‘s flick from a penalty corner was saved by the Belgian defence.
Two minutes into the third quarter Belgium secured another set piece but failed to utilise it.
Harmanpreet’s flick from a penalty corner minutes later was saved by van Doren.
In the 45th minute, Belgium secured another penalty corner but the Indians defended in numbers.
Four minutes into the final quarter, Belgium earned another set piece and this time Sreejesh came to India’s rescue.
India too had a few great chances to take the lead but Sukhjeet Singh and Gurjant Singh’s efforts were saved by the Belgian custodian.
The Indian crumbled under Belgium’s relentless pressure in the final minute of the game and conceded back-to-back penalty corners, the second of which was put into goal by Onana from a rebound after Sreejesh made the initial save.
India will take on hosts Great Britain in their second match of the Europe leg of the Pro League here on Saturday.
(With PTI inputs)