HWL Final: India knock out Belgium via penalty shootout, enter semi-finals

While India have played brilliantly in flashes the pool matches of the Hockey World League Final saw their game fall apart at crucial junctures. Manpreet Singh and Co. would be hoping to avoid that in the quarterfinal match against Belgium on We

In the quarter-finals of the Hockey World League Final at Bhubaneswar, Odisha today, India beat Belgium 3-2 in the penalty shoot out.

Warming the bench for most part of the match, goalkeeper Akash Chikte dished out a superb performance to hand India their first win of the tournament, a win that will erase all their wrongdoing of the pool stages.

"This is the best format to make hockey interesting and more attractive for the fans as well as for players", Subbaiah told Hindustan Times. But Chikte, who gave his place to young Suraj Karkera in the match and was brought into action in the 47th minute, stood up to his coach's faith and produced four brilliant saves in the shoot-out that went to sudden death to seal the famous win for India. The other two quarterfinal matches will be played on December 7, with England facing Argentina, and Germany taking on the Netherlands. In the second quarter Gurjant Singh pushed the ball into the D area, though Sunil's sliding stick guided the ball outside of the goal post.

Rupinder converted from a penalty corner. Even before the Belgians could heave a sigh of relief, India nosed ahead.

It was again Gurjant-Sunil combination that produced the opportunity in the 18th minute.

The match ended 3-3, meaning a shootout was required to separate the teams. Four minutes later, it was doubled, thanks to a ferocious penalty corner flick from Harmanpreet Singh.

Harmanpreet converted the set piece after being set up by a handsome dummy by Rupinder.

Ex-India goalkeeper AB Subbaiah and legendary penalty corner expert Floris Jan Bovelander too appreciated the format and the tournament, being played for the last time. But the Red Lions drew parity again minutes later through Amaury Keusters.

The Indians started the match well at the Kalinga Stadium, going into a 2-0 lead inside 35 minutes before Belgium managed to shift the momentum back in their favour within the next 10 minutes with two goals from Loïck Luypaert bringing it back to 2-2.

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.

After three efforts it was 2-0 for India but Belgium roared back forcing sudden-death by scoring both of their two remaining efforts while India failed to convert.

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