Sport

HWL final: India edge Belgium to enter semis

HWL final: India edge Belgium to enter semis”

The game was on a knife's edge in the last seven minutes and ended in deep breaths in both dug-outs, where Marijne and Belgium coach Shane McLeod had their five players already tick-marked for the shootout. More than India's tactical threat, it was the crowd that posed the bigger danger to the Red Lions. Although Manpreet Singh & Co entered the quarters without a win - two defeats and a draw - this win washed all their past sins.

Goalkeeper Akash Chikte was the hero of the match for India, as he made one save after another, to earn India the victory in the end. Incidentally, three years ago, Chikte was a spectator in the stands and watched PR Sreejesh perform his duties under the bar. The lead was doubled four minutes through a penalty corner by Harmanpreet Singh. Sunil would go on to miss yet another pointblank chance later.

India, knowing the flak they would receive if they misfired for a third game in a row, came out all guns blazing, just like they did against Australia.

The Indians started the match well at the Kalinga Stadium, going into a 2-0 lead inside 35 minutes before Belgium managed to shift the momentum back in their favour within the next 10 minutes with two goals from Loïck Luypaert bringing it back to 2-2. India lured the opposition into playing the game they wanted, which was basically counters. Harmanpreet Singh scored what proved to be the victor while Arthur van Doren was unable to beat India shot-stopper Akash Chikte. But the Belgians found the net against the run of play in the 11th minute when John-John Dohmen pushed in skipper Thomas Briels' backhand pass but to the relief of the capacity crowd the goal was disallowed for back stick after India went for video referral.

India, however, managed to reclaim the lead just seconds later through a Rupinder Pal Singh penalty corner goal.

Belgium Loick Luypaert is staking a claim to be the player of the tournament irrespective of where his team finishes. Belgium's hard work to get back into the game was negated when Rupinder's flick put the host ahead once again at 3-2. Rupinder Pal Singh and Amaury Keusters then scored a goal each to make it 3-3. We had told each other that we had to put in everything in this match.

"It was a really exciting game, I'd describe it as nail-biting", he said. The other two quarterfinal matches will be played on December 7, with England facing Argentina, and Germany taking on the Netherlands.



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