Pro League 2023-24: Indian women’s hockey team loses 1-2 to Belgium

Antwerp, May 25 (IANS): Sangita Kumari scored a goal but the Indian women’s hockey team went down 1-2 in a FIH Hockey Pro League 2023/24 match here on Saturday. Ambre Ballenghien (15’) and Vanessa Blockmans (20‘) got on the scoresheet for Belgium before Sangita Kumari (34‘) scored the only goal for India.

Belgium began the game with a full-court press, making it difficult for India to play out from the back.

However, the Indian eves endured the initial pressure and began dominating possession, while Belgium continued to press, looking for a chance to score on the counterattack. The pressure resulted in a penalty corner for Belgium, and Ambre Ballenghien stepped up to power the ball past Savita in goal, putting her team ahead as the first quarter drew to a close.

In the second quarter, Belgium employed the same tactic while India attempted to stitch a few passes together in Belgium’s half. Five minutes into the quarter, Belgium’s high press resulted in another penalty corner, and Vanessa Blockmans pounced on Louise Versavel’s deflected shot to score the second goal of the game.

India reacted to the goal through Salima Tete, who turned on a sixpence in midfield, blazed to the right corner, and unleashed a rocket on goal, which was saved by Belgian keeper Elodie Picard.

India struggled to play out of their half as Belgium continued to close down their passing lanes, forcing the Indian defense into a scramble to keep it 2-0 heading into halftime.

Belgium further intensified the pressure in the third quarter. However, Jyoti bypassed the press to find Deepika, whose forward pass deflected to Sangita Kumari in the circle. She flashed it into Elodie Picard’s goal to bring India back into the game.

After the goal, India occasionally started to beat the Belgian press, but Belgium was quick to threaten the Indian defense. They won the ball high up the pitch and forced Savita into action. Delphine Marien remained a constant threat down the right wing for Belgium, but the Indian defense stood firm, and the quarter ended 2-1 in Belgium’s favour.

The final quarter saw India turn over the ball in their half, but Belgium failed to capitalise. The game became stretched as both teams looked to score quickly towards the end.

India created a chance to score through Deepika, but her shot was saved, and Sangita snatched the chance to score from the deflection but was not able to convert it. Savita had to stay alert in goal as the Belgian forwards constantly won the ball and threatened to score. With five minutes left in the quarter, Belgium earned a penalty corner, but the ball sailed wide of the post.

India grew into the game, pushing ahead in search of an equaliser. Deepika was given a chance to score in the final moments, but the Belgian defense rushed to subdue the chaos before the goal and sealed a 2-1 victory over India.

The Indian women's hockey team will take on Argentina in their next match on May 26.



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Title: Pro League 2023-24: Indian women’s hockey team loses 1-2 to Belgium

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