India edges out Belgium

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HOCKEY / Pakistan upsets Olympic champion Germany

STOUT DEFENCE:A fine display by defender V.R. Raghunath (right) helped India hold off Belgium in the quarterfinals of the Champions Trophy on Thursday.— PHOTO: AFP
STOUT DEFENCE:A fine display by defender V.R. Raghunath (right) helped India hold off Belgium in the quarterfinals of the Champions Trophy on Thursday.— PHOTO: AFP

Arch-rivals India and Pakistan went into the semifinals of the Champions Trophy along with the Netherlands and Australia after victories here on Thursday.

India, chasing its first Trophy medal for 30 years, edged out Belgium 1-0, while Pakistan upset Olympic champion Germany 2-1.

Pakistan will be underdogs again when it takes on the Dutch in Saturday’s semifinals, while India faces Australia.

The Netherlands, a bronze medallist at the last two Champions Trophy tournaments, brushed aside New Zealand 2-0 to reach the last four.

India, a bronze medallist at the 1982 event at Amstelveen, is bidding to play in its first Trophy final.

Hard fought

Unlike its other wins at the tournament, India’s win over Belgium was hard fought, with Indian coach Michael Nobbs praising his team’s defence.

The win came despite the Belgians controlling much of the match, however they were unable to convert their many opportunities.

The Indians made them pay, scoring a goal against the run of play through Nithin Thimmaiah in the 13th minute.

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.

India had very few chances thereafter and were forced to fall back to defend stoutly as Belgians asserted strength in the midfield.

Belgium forced six penalty corners against India’s one.

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 the lead.

Belgium had beaten India in the last two encounters — in the final of the Champions Challenge last year and in the preliminary league of the Olympic Games in London.

Pakistan is one win away from its first Champions Trophy final since 1998 after upsetting the Germans.

Pakistan’s win was due largely to Shakeel Abbasi, who dominated and scored both of his team’s goals.

Abbasi said he believed his team could continue to do well in the tournament.

Pakistan’s victory was made even sweeter given it was forced to come back after Germany opened the scoring through skipper Moritz Fuerste.

Controversial goal

Pakistan’s second and decisive goal was full of controversy.

The goal was scored by Abbasi, however Germany referred the decision claiming it should not have been awarded as the ball initially came off the back of the stick of a Pakistani player before making its way to Abbasi.

The video proved inconclusive with the goal standing despite the German protests.

The Netherlands were pleased to progress to the last four, yet coach Paul van Ass said he didn’t feel his team played its best.

After scoring first through Jeroen Hertzberger, Netherlands struggled to find a way through until a brilliant run into the circle by Sander de Wijn for Billy Bakker to convert for a two-goal cushion and passage into the semifinals.

The results: (Quarterfinals):

Pakistan 2 (Abbasi 39, 50) bt Germany 1 (Fuerste 9).

Netherlands 2 (Hertzberger 13, Bakker 45) bt New Zealand 0.

India 1 (Thimmaiah 13) bt Belgium 0.

Australia 2 (Dwyer 16, Ciriello 53) bt England 0.

Saturday’s semifinals: Pakistan v Netherlands, India v Australia. — Agencies

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