Against India, Belgium dominated the exchanges but failed to kill the match when they had the opportunity.
This first duel against the 4th nation in the world was a real test in this Pro League for the proteges of Michel van den Heuvel. An important match against a very high quality opponent to assess the work and progress made in recent weeks. With Loic Van Doren in goal (Vincent Vanasch was still rested after winning a second title last Sunday in Germany), the Belgians suffered from Indian pressure during the first but the Antwerp goalkeeper was vigilant both on penalties and on the possibility of Akashdeep Singh. In the 9th minute, The Lions obtained a first penalty but Tom Boon’s attempt was rejected. The other 2 Belgian pc were not more fruitful. There was a lot of rhythm in the game but also a lot of defensive work by the 2 teams.
And it was finally in the 18th minute that the visitors found the opening via Shamsher Singh. But the reaction was not long in coming. And after a first unsuccessful try from Nicolas De Kerpel, the Herakles striker ideally served Cédric Charlier who did not hesitate to equalize (21st). The game was of a high technical level and the intensity of the duels was impressive. The 2 nations held each other very closely and the slightest error could be paid for in cash. The Belgians controlled this end of the first period (64% possession during the first 30 minutes) but they did not manage to concretize this slight domination at the scoreboard.
The second period started like the first with Indian pressure but without Arthur Van Doren (sprained ankle and Pro League finished). But Loic Van Doren saved his people with an incredible save. And while the visitors seemed to take over, it was Simon Gougnard who placed the Red Lions in command by scoring a beautiful goal (36th). At the end of the 3rd quarter, Florent van Aubel created a good possibility but his backhand shot missed the target. But the Indians were still dangerous and the defense could not afford to relax their attention.
The Red Lions had to continue like this in the last quarter of an hour by keeping their structure, not letting their opponents play and maintaining great pressure. The 4th world nation was trying to reverse the trend but it came up against a real white wall. In the 51st minute, the Belgians obtained a 6th penalty and Nicolas De Kerpel did not hesitate to score his team’s 3rd goal. But 2 minutes later, India got a logical stroke. Harmanpreet Singh didn’t flinch and scored his 17th Pro League goal. The pressure was extremely strong on Loic Van Doren’s goal and 2 minutes from the end of the match, Jarmanpreet Singh equalized on a penalty phase. And despite the last 3 pc (1 out of 8), the Lions ultimately failed to win this duel (3-3) despite a good performance. At the Shoot-outs, it was the Indians who finally left with the bonus point.
There was therefore enough to feed some regrets when taking stock of this meeting as confirmed by Nicolas De Kerpel. “I don’t really know how to explain what happened and why we couldn’t maintain our advantage at the scoreboard. We should have won this meeting because we have the experience and the players to do so. That’s a shame. We dominated this duel and we could have scored more goals. We were a little taken in by the Indians who took us to a kind of ping-pong match. We lost a bit of structure after the break following Arthur Van Doren’s injury. We also need to find our cruising speed on the penalty spot. But I am confident for the future and the continuation.
This Sunday (4:30 p.m.), the Red Lions will therefore try to raise their level a little more to achieve a 9th success in the competition. Because against an opponent like India, nothing is ever certain and the match can always change until the very last second.