FIH Hockey World League Final: India shoot out Belgium, enter semis
Goalkeeper Akash Chikte saved the all-important sudden death attempt as the Indian hockey team beat Belgium 3-2 in a shootout in their FIH Hockey World League Final (HWLF) quarterfinal. It remained 3-3 in regulation time with goals from Gurjant Singh, Harmanpreet Singh and Rupinder Pal Singh for India; Loick Luypaert and Amaury Keusters for Belgiumother sports Updated: Dec 07, 2017 12:48 IST
India and Australia, two teams that had failed to win a match in the preliminary round, upstaged teams that had fared better to enter the semi-finals of the FIH World Hockey League Final here on Wednesday. (IND vs BEL highlights)
It boiled down to winning the match that mattered and India did it in style with substitute goalkeeper Akash Chikte saving the all-important sudden death attempt to help India beat Rio Olympics silver medallists Belgium 3-2. The game was tied 3-3 in regulation time and 2-2 in penalty shootout.
India will face the winners of the quarter-final between England and Argentina, to be played on Thursday.
The win allowed India to avenge their semi-final defeat to Belgium at Raipur in the 2015 edition, and was also their first win over the world No 3 in the World League Final. India had also lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics.
After 2-2 in the penalty shootout, all eyes were on Harmanpreet Singh in sudden death, and once he scored with ease, the focus shifted to young custodian Akash Chikte.
He lived up to expectations by denying Arthur van Doren and ensured India entered the last four in style. Lalit Upadhyay and Rupinder Pal Singh scored in the penalty shootout, whereas Van Doren and Florent van Aubel struck for Belgium.
It was a superb display of stick-work by skipper Manpreet Singh and his boys at the Kalinga Stadium as no one had expected such a show, as the side was lacklustre in the league phase.
Though SV Sunil had a chance each in the first and second quarters, the Indian defenders kept the rivals at bay, clearing the ball quickly whenever Belgium closed in.
A change of ends instilled excitement. Gurjant Singh scored the first goal in the 31st minute to give India a 1-0 lead, before Harmanpreet converted the team’s third penalty corner in the 35th minute. After stopping the ball at the top of the circle, Rupinder pushed it to Harmanpreet, who did the rest (2-0).
The excitement didn’t stop here as Belgium pulled one back in the 39th minute through Loick Luypaert (1-2). India converted their fourth short corner through Rupinder to extend the lead in the 46th minute (3-1).
Soon after, Loick scored his second goal for Belgium before Amaury Keusters restored parity with a field goal in the 53rd minute (3-3).