Indian hockey team suffered a dramatic defeat as they succumbed to Belgian pressure and conceded 3 goals in the last 15 minutes to go down 3-4 to Belgium in the final of Champions Challenge after leading 3 -1 with just 16 minutes to final hooter.
VR Raghnath opened Indian account through a set piece in 23rd minute after some bad luck for India as Yuvraj Walmiki’s close range shot found the cross bar. Drag-flicker Sandeep Singh continued his good run and doubled the lead to 2-0 in the 41st minute through a high drag flick, his 7th goal in the tournament, all penalty corners. Jerome Dekeyser of Belgium pulled one back in 44th minute but a beautiful field goal India’s Shivendra Singh saw the scored board reading 3-1 in India’s favor, but it dint last too long.
A silly foul from V R Raghunath in Indian half near 25m line, not only sent him off the field for 5 minute but also India conceded a goal the same free hit (Boccard in 55th minute). Belgium mounted pressure on 10men Indian team and that paid off to Europeans and they equalised the score 3-3, scoring goal within 3 minutes through Jerome Dekeyser (57th minute). Belgium held their nerves, kept pressurising India, and scored in the last minute through Tom Boon to win the summit clash and qualify for the Champions Trophy next year.
India’s game was good and nicely composed in first half, but not the usual in second half. Goal keeping for India made the difference, 2 goals through the pads are not good for any goalie of Bharat Chetri stature and a wrong angle covering? Though he had some good save under the bar but he needs to do something about his positioning. “Bharat Chetri,really poor goalkeeping in the finals,needs to work on his positioning and balance.looked very hesitant and confused.” as tweeted by former Indian goalie and Olympian Ashish Ballal.
The actual turning point of the game was yellow card earned by V R Raghunath, that too out of a silly and unnecessary tackle, which saw two goals in next two minute to squander the lead and then Belgium turned it on.
Best Player: Sandeep Singh (India)
Best Goalkeeper: David van Rysselberghe (Belgium)
Top Goalscorer: 8 – Justin Reid-Ross (South Africa) and Tom Boon (Belgium)
Fair Play: South Africa
3. South Africa