India suffered a heartbreak 0-3 loss to Belgium in the penalty shootout after holding the World No. 3 side to 4-4 in regulation time here in the Final of the Four Nations Invitational Tournament at the Gallagher Hockey Stadium on Sunday.
It was Felix Denayer, Sébastien Dockier and Arthur van Doren who scored for Belgium in the shootout while Tanguy Cosyns (41’), Cédric Charlier (43’), Amaury Keusters (51’) and Felix Denayer (56’) scored earlier during regulation time. For India, Ramandeep Singh (29’, 53’), Nilakanta Sharma (42’) and Mandeep Singh (49’) were the goal scorers in regulation time. Earlier in the day, Japan beat hosts New Zealand 4-1 in the shootout to win the Bronze Medal after holding the Black Sticks to 1-1 in regulation time.
The Final between India and Belgium was yet another goal-fest with both teams testing each other hooter-to-hooter in this high voltage encounter. It was a steady start for India as they were made to work hard to keep the ball. The Belgian attack meanwhile kept Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh busy through the first quarter with as many as three PCs including a penalty stroke.
Their first PC coming in the 8th minute but Sreejesh was up to the task, lunging to his right to save. With 52 seconds for the first hooter, Belgium won two more PCs which were brilliantly saved by the Indian goalkeeper but it was the penalty stroke taken by the ever-dangerous Loïck Luypaert that Sreejesh saved which enthralled the evening audience in Hamilton.
India won two back-to-back PCs at the start of the second quarter but couldn’t make much of it but it was India who grabbed the 1-0 lead, thanks to clever work by Mandeep Singh in the circle finding Ramandeep Singh in the top of the circle. Ramandeep had the time to control it and take a sure shot into the goal.
The action intensified in the third quarter with Belgium upping their attack, winning an equalizer in the 41st minute through Tanguy Cosyns’s well-executed PC. Moments later, India’s Nilakanta Sharma was quick to pick up a beautiful assist from Mandeep Singh to strike the ball past Vincent Vanasch into Belgium post to regain 2-1 lead in the 42nd minute. But Belgium equalized in the following minute, via Cédric Charlier using reverse hit to send the ball between Sreejesh’s legs.
Four goals were scored in the final quarter showing just how intense this match was, playing down to the wire by both teams. India won back their lead twice in this quarter (3-2, 4-3) when Mandeep scored in the 49th minute followed by a sensational goal by Ramandeep Singh in the 53rd minute respectively. But Belgium, are not the ones to give up easy as they stayed in hunt snatching India’s lead through Amaury Keusters (51’) and Felix Denayer (56’) ensuring the match went into a penalty shootout.