India grimly hung on to an early lead to prevail 1-0 over Belgium to advance to the semifinals of the Champions Trophy at the State Hockey Centre here on Thursday.
The goal that settled the fate of the quarterfinal contest came in the 13th minute of the first shot India had at the rival goal. Nitin Thimmaiah capitalised on a rebound to send a firm shot into the right corner of the goal. The rebound had come to Thimmaiah on top of the circle following Gurmail Singh’s try off a cross from Birendra Lakra.
Fine display by defenders
It was because of a fine display by defenders V.R. Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh, beside goalkeeper T.R. Potunuri, that India managed to maintain their lead. India are now in the hunt for their first medal since their lone Champions Trophy bronze in 1982. This will also be India’s highest finish since 2004 when they had lost the bronze medal match to end fourth. In the semifinals, India will take on the winner of the other quarterfinal match between four-time defending champions Australia and England. In the last three minutes of the first half, Belgian strikers had chance but they committed fouls just before putting the ball in the net. Just before the hooter, Felix Denayer deflected a set-piece attempt into the goal, but the umpire had blown for a foul in the process of switching the ball toward him.
Gurwinder gets yellow card
Gurwinder Singh Chandi was off with a yellow card for raising his stick in a reactionary manner, while captain Sardar Singh was penalised for the defenders surrounding an umpire during a video referral in the 64th minute.
Pakistan are one win away from their first Champions Trophy final since 1998 after upsetting Olympic champions Germany 2-1. Australia’s hopes of a fifth straight title remain on target after they beating England 2-0. The Netherlands also progressed to the final four after easily disposing of New Zealand 2-0.Agencies