Goalkeeper Akash Chikte’s brilliance in the shootout, after a 3-3 deadlock, helped India knock Rio Olympics silver-medallists Belgium out of the Hockey World League in the quarterfinal at Bhubaneswar.
Three second-half goals each by the teams saw the game going into the shootouts. India, then, let go of a 2-0 advantage, allowing Arthur van Doren and Florent van Aubel to tie the scores in the shootouts.
But Harmanpreet Singh scored in the ‘sudden death’ after a brilliant dribble that confused goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch. Chikte then denied van Doren, signalling the home team’s progress to the semi-finals.
Earlier, India took the lead a minute after half-time. SV Sunil blasted a shot that Vincent Vanasch blocked with his pads. Akashdeep Singh swiftly passed the rebound to Gurjant Singh at the goalmouth and the latter tapped it in as the crowd went berserk.
The home team doubled the lead four minutes later through a cheeky conversion of a penalty corner. Akashdeep received skipper Manpreet Singh’s shot with a deft touch, then, Rupinder Pal Singh, deceiving the Belgian defence, passed the ball between his legs to Harmanpreet Singh, who bashed the ball past Vanasch.
Loick Luypaert, the tournament’s highest scorer, narrowed India’s lead by converting his sixth penalty corner to make it 2-2. He waited till the last minute after receiving the ball and lashed it to the left corner of the Indian net. Rupinder Pal Singh and Amaury Keusters then scored a goal each to make it 3-3.
Within two minutes into the game, India had a chance to go a goal up when Gurjant Singh directed the ball towards SV Sunil, who was close to the Belgian goalmouth. But the latter’s failure to reach the ball resulted in a collective gasp from the packed crowd at the Kalinga Stadium.
Another opportunity visited India within four minutes: a penalty corner that resulted from a brilliant play by Birendra Lakra and Bikram Singh. But Harmanpreet Singh’s shot went straight to the Belgian goalkeeper.