Alexander Hendrickx struck a brace as Belgium notched up a thrilling 3-2 victory over India in the second match of the two-leg FIH Pro Hockey League tournament in Antwerp on Sunday. With this win, the world champions moved up to second spot on the points table while India were third.
Hendrickx (49th, 59th) produced two goals in the fourth quarter to go with a 33rd minute goal from Nicolas de Kerpel as the Olympic champions fought back from a 0-1 deficit, a day after being stunned by the visitors 4-5 in a shootout. For India, Abhishek (25th) open the account while Mandeep Singh (60) scored another goal just moments before the hooter.
Belgium controlled the game early on with better ball possession and also earned the first penalty corner when PR Sreejesh saved one with his foot but ended up pushing the ball into one of the Indian defender's foot. However, Belgium squandered the opportunity.
India had a chance in the 5th minute when Jarmanpreet sent a cross from the right but Sukhjeet ended up sending it over the bar. India enjoyed better possession during the final stages of the first quarter and Jugraj had created an opportunity with a long ball through the center but the visitors faltered with the finish as Belgium defence was up to the job.
Jarmanpreet earned a penalty corner five minutes into the second quarter but Harmanpreet's shot was saved by goalie V Vanasch superbly. In the 25th minute, India produced the breakthrough with a superb field goal with Abhishek guiding the ball into the net after set up by Gurjant Singh, who superbly combined with Vivek Sagar Prasad inside the circle.
Belgium came back strong looking for an equaliser but the defence held on with Sreejesh effecting a superb save as the second quarter ended with India leading 1-0.
In the 33rd minute, Nicolas de Kerpel brought the hosts back into the game with a tight finish after being fed by Arthur de Sloover. A tight battle of supremacy ensued but India's defence stood firm, especially Sreejesh producing some superb saves to deny Belgium. In the third quarter, India were reduced to 10 men after Akashdeep received a green card.
Things changed in the fourth quarter when in the 48th minute, Surender Kumar conceded a PC and Alexander Hendrickx quickly put Belgium ahead with a lightning-fast shot that went through the legs of Sreejesh.
With four minutes left for the end of fourth quarter, India earned a penalty corner but goalie Vanasch Vincent put his right hand on the way to deny the visitors.
On minute shy of the hour's mark, Belgium earned another penalty stroke, much to the dismay of Indian camp and Hendrickx converted it, getting the ball past Sreejesh high on the net to make it 3-1 in their favour.
However, a fighting India almost pulled off a heist when Mandeep Singh slept past the Belgium goalkeeper to reduce the margin. With just seconds left on the clock, Vivek then produced a sensational hit at the goalpost but it went off target as another thrilling contest came to an end.
India will now take on Netherlands next week.