Tauranga: India went down fighting to Belgium 1-2 in a thrilling final of the first leg of the Four Nations Invitational tournament at the Blake Park here on Sunday. Tom Boon (4th minute) and Sebastien Dockier (36th) found the target for Belgium while Mandeep Singh (19th) was India's lone goal-scorer.
Belgium were quick to get off the block as they won a penalty corner within three minutes of the game but Loick Luypaert's dragflick was superbly rendered ineffective by India's first runner Chinglensana Kangujam.
Almost immediately, India had a great opportunity to score as a dribbling Dilpreet Singh made a beautiful turn at the top of the circle to dodge a Belgian defender. He then sliced the ball across to Lalit Upadhyay who had positioned himself in front of the post but sadly he could not get a nudge on the ball.
Belgium, meanwhile, mounted pressure on India with a goal through Boon in the fourth minute.
With three seconds to go for the first hooter, India won a penalty corner but Rupinder Pal Singh's fierce hit to the right bottom of the post was saved by a Belgian defender at the baseline.
India overcame a slow start in the second quarter as they gained momentum, creating potential circle penetrations. It was in the 19th minute when Rupinder intercepted a Belgian long pass to find Manpreet in the midfield who then sliced the ball into the center of the circle. Mandeep was quick to react, beating goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch to push the ball into the post fetching India the equaliser.
The next few minutes saw India work hard to keep the ball but a structured Belgian defence was tough to break. Meanwhile, Sreejesh made an excellent save in the 21st minute when Thomas Briels took a shot on goal, ensuring both teams went into the half-time break levelled.
It was advantage Belgium as they scored at the start of the third quarter when Gauthier Boccard used a powerful reverse hit from the top of the striking circle. Sreejesh made a fine save but Dockier was quick to pick up the rebound as he found the gap and smashed the ball past the India goalkeeper.