India’s shaky defence conceded a goal 15 seconds from the hooter to go down 2-3 against Belgium in their opening game of hockey World Cup at the Kyocera Stadium on Saturday.
The Indian defenders allowed space inside the circle to the Belgians, who were frustrated and under pressure after being tied 2-2 going into the final minute of play.
The last-gasp attempt by Belgium saw the ball being switched around to leave the Indians confused and John-John Dohmen managed to push ball over the goal-line in a scrimmage.
The last-minute goal undid India’s good show in the second session when they rallied from a one-goal deficit to lead 2-1 to the surprise of the crowd comprising overwhelmingly of Belgium supporters.
Belgium took the initial lead in the 34th minute through Florent van Aubel before India scored two field goals through Mandeep Singh (45th minute) and Akashdeep Singh (50th).
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Belgium equalised on a set-piece penalty corner conversion Simon Gougnard in the 56th minute and India created a openings at the other end before Dohmen got the final-minute winner.
Belgium dominated the game from the beginning, pushing Indian players to fall back into their half to strengthen the defense.
The Indian defence did well to deny the rival strikers many shots at the goal. P.R. Sreejesh played an outstanding game under the bar and blocked two goalwards shots before being beaten by a deflection just one minute before half-time.
Arthur van Doren’s diagonal ball into the circle was deflected by van Aubel into the right corner of the Indian goal past the outstretched arm of the custodian.
The Indian team felt the ball had gone off van Doren’s foot and sought a video review, but the goal was upheld after being reviewed twice and Belgium went into the second half was a 1-0 lead.
The Indians failed to mount many raids as they seemed to effortlessly give the ball away after defending stoutly, which enabled the Belgians to keep mounting regular attacks.
But on one occasion, India could have spelt trouble for the rivals when Sreejesh palmed away a penalty corner shot and skipper Sardar Singh relayed a long ball on the right flank to unmarked Akashdeep, who failed to trap the ball and let away the best chance to assert pressure in the first session.
India were back on level terms 10 minutes into the second session on a move Gurbaz Singh where Dharamvir Singh squared the ball to Mandeep to shoot in.
Against the run of play, India went into the lead in the 50th minute when V.S. Raghunath sent a diagonal ball from left into the circle and Akahsdeep’s deflection soared into the net past the bewildered goalkeeper.
Belgium were rattled by this reverse, but continued to assert pressure and got the equaliser on a set-piece attempt in what was the only conversion from six penalty corners.
India’s lone penalty corner came in the 66th minute, but Rupinder Pal Singh sent the drag-flick wide over the cross-bar.
India have now suffered four defeats in last five encounter with Belgium, who are a new force in world hockey and were runners-up in the European Cup last year.
Starting with the final of the Champions Challenge in Johannesburg in 2011, where they upstaged India in the last five minutes to win after conceding a two-goal lead, the Belgians have beaten India in the 2012 Olympics and the recent World League Finals in New Delhi, while India beat them in the quarterfinals of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne in December 2012.
In another Group A match, holder Australia launched the defence of their title with a 4-0 drubbing of Malaysia.