India spanked Belgium 4-2 in their final preliminary match to top group A and set up a semifinal clash with arch-rivals Pakistan in the Champions Challenge I hockey tournament here.
The beginning of yesterday’s match was spirited with chances being spurned at both ends, including a penalty-corner that India shot wide.
India controlled most of the play with Shivendra Singh and Prabhjot Singh being very active upfront, but the Belgian defence held tight.
Prabhjot had a great opportunity to open the scoring after stealing a ball from Xavier Reckinger in deep defence but his shot was just wide.
India finally scored their first goal through a penalty-corner in the 19th minute, with a low flick by Dhananjay Mahadik.
The Indians could have doubled their tally a few minutes later on another penalty-corner but the initial shot was saved and Rajpal could not negotiate the rebound.
Belgium reacted well and after crashing a penalty corner on the post, equalised with a penalty-stroke by Jerome Dekeyser in the 24th minute. Less than a minute later, a field goal by Renaud Pangrazio helped them go ahead of India.
The end of the period was dominated by India with a goal by Shivendra, who was left unmarked on the far post, in the 30th minute helping the team equalise with the Belgians.
India missed a chance to break the deadlock early in the second half on a penalty-corner, and the game continued back and forth at a high tempo, providing thrilling entertainment to the crowd.
Tushar Khandekar scored the go-ahead goal in the 48th minute, after a series of saved shots, but Belgium were not down yet and Adrian D’Souza had to pull a spectacular diving save to protect the Indian net.
Belgium continued with the same intensity but the very focused Indian team denied them until the end, scoring a last second goal by Prabhjot.
With the win, India won pool A ahead of New Zealand, Belgium and China. After a rest day today, India play Pakistan in the semifinal tomorrow.