The Indian women’s hockey team faced hosts Belgium in their opening game of the Fintro Hockey World League in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday. Ranked 12th, the hosts are just one spot above the Indians (13) in the FIH women’s world rankings. In a closely fought contest, Belgium beat India 1-0 with skipper Lieselotte Van Lindt scoring the only goal of the match.
First quarter: Video referral saves India
The Indian women opened the game aggressively as they penetrated the Belgian circle in the very first minute. The home team came back into the game as they began to build up by holding possession and driving the ball inside the Indian half. They even managed a field goal with a little over 5 minutes remaining but the decision was reversed via video referral. Indian skipper Ritu Rani rightly spotted a backstick inside the circle and hence the goal was cancelled out. The first quarter did not yield any goals.
Second quarter: Savita blocks De Groof’s drag-flick to ensure 0-0 scoreline
Both teams tried hard to maintain possession but cheaply surrendered the ball in the midfield. India found a genuine goal scoring opportunity when an incoming ball was cleverly flicked in only to find the feet of the Belgian goal keeper. Just before half time, the home side were awarded a penalty corner. A moment of brilliance from Indian goalkeeper Savita saw Stephanie De Groof’s drag-flick being kept away. The score read 0-0 at the half-hour mark.
Third quarter: Van Lindt scores to put Belgium in lead
The Indian eves once again got off to a promising start and made early inroads into the Belgian defense. The defenders, Deep Grace Ekka and Deepika initiated the counter-attacks and put pressure on the Belgians. In the 35th minute, the home team picked up their second penalty corner and skipper Lieselotte Van Lindt picked up from a rebound and smashed the ball into the goal to gain an important 1-0 lead. India responded in the very next minute as they earned a penalty corner. Deepika’s flick was saved by the keeper but then came another shot off the rebound which was directed at the goal. Stephanie De Groof pulled off a miraculous goal line save to keep her team ahead.
Fourth quarter: India rue missed chances, Belgium pick up their first win at the Hockey World League
India had an aggressive approach in the final 15 minutes of the game but lacked accuracy in their passing. They lost possession as they rushed in too much with the ball and misplayed the ball. The Belgian defenders were on top of their game as they cancelled out every incoming Indian attack. The final whistle was blown and Belgium was happy to pick up full points from their inaugural match at the Hockey World League.