India fought hard but a defensive lapse from Harmanpreet Singh cost them dear as they slumped to their first defeat in the second edition of the FIH Hockey Pro League, losing 2-3 to world champions Belgium here on Sunday.
After defeating world number three the Netherlands in their opening two matches of the FIH Pro League, India beat world number one Belgium in a thrilling match on Saturday to continue their unbeaten run, which lifted them to number four position in the world rankings.
But the Manpreet Singh-led side could not repeat Saturday’s performance and went down fighting in their second match against world number number one Belgium.
Alexander Hendrickx scored from a penalty corner in the third minute for Belgium but it was Maxime Plennevaux’s (17th, 26th) two field goals that ensured the win for the visiting side. India’s goals came from the sticks of Vivek Sagar Prasad (15th) and Amit Rohidas (17th).
The win enabled Belgium to keep their top position at the standings with 14 points from six games, while India are placed second with eight points from four matches.
The Kalinga Stadium has been a happy hunting ground for Belgium as it is the same venue where they lifted their maiden World Cup title in 2018.
The Red Lions took the lead as early as in the third minute when Hendrickx scored from a penalty corner after the the initial two efforts of Sebastien Dockier and Thomas Briels were brilliantly saved by India custodian PR Sreejesh. India drew level eight seconds before the end of the first quarter when Vivek tapped in after Surender Kumar’s fine work from the right flank.
Belgium restored their lead two minutes into the second quarter through Plennevaux, who deflected in a beautiful pass from Simon Gougnard.