India squandered a two-goal advantage and conceded a last-minute goal to lose 3-4 to Belgium in the final of the Champions Challenge-I hockey tournament here on Sunday.
Striker Florent van Aubel caught the Indian defenders off-guard and scored the all-important winner for Belgium at the stroke of the hooter to not only hand Belgium the gold medal but also a maiden place in next year's Champions Trophy in Australia.India, seeking to repeat their Champions Challenge title win of 2001, led 2-0 and again 3-1 before a late rally by Belgium saw them equalise 3-3 and then deliver the knockout blow in the last minute.
India’s goals came through penalty-corner strikes from VR Raghunath (23rd) and Sandeep Singh (39th), while Shivendra Singh (53rd) scored a fine field goal.
The Belgians came back strongly through Jerome Dekeyser's two outstanding field goals in 45th and 57th minutes, while Gauthier Boccard penetrated the Indian defence with a fine deflection in the 55th minute. India had several chances but their strikers were off-mark.