Brilliant India clip Belgian wings

Sardar's men to take on Pakistan, Germany to play Australia in semifinal clashes

Brilliant India clip Belgian wings

Traditional rivals India and Pakistan ignited the FIH Champions Trophy in spectacular fashion, setting up a mouth-watering semifinal against each other after notching up impressive victories here on Thursday.

Riding on a high after their morale-boosting win over the Netherlands -- their first win over the Oranje in 18 years – the Indians staged an incredible rally to down Belgium 4-2 in front of a raucous crowd at the Kalinga Stadium.

Rupinder Pal Singh and SK Uthappa brought India back when they appeared doomed early on in the game itself before Akashdeep Singh and Dharamvir Singh completed the superb fightback, laying the finishing touches to lightening pieces of counter-attack.

Pakistan set the tone for an entertaining day of hockey earlier in the day by upsetting title favourites the Netherlands 4-2 in the first quarterfinal. Having suffered three straight defeats and the team looking jaded, Pakistan showed why they are one of the dangerous customers when it comes to the knock-outs in quelling the Dutch with a polished defensive performance.

Australia, the 13-time winners and chasing a sixth straight crown, too bounced back in the nick of time with a 4-2 defeat of Argentina where a young squad gave an ample display of their hunger and desire to retain the trophy.

Youthful Germany, patchy in the group stages like the Kookaburras, too showed their big stage mettle in beating England 2-0 with a typically organized performance. Germany and Australia will lock horns in the first semifinal on Saturday.

Both India and Belgium started in cagey fashion with neither willing to give an inch. Banking on their tight marking and disciplined approach, Belgium hardly gave the Indians any space to operate.

Aware any mistakes could go punished, India chose to keep things tight as well, relying more on counter-attacks with their fleet-footed strikers posing an odd problem or two for the Red Lions.

Slowly, the visitors started to press higher but the Indian defence soaked it up pretty well before releasing the strikers down both the flanks in the blink of an eye.  India almost stroked ahead through such a lightning quick counter-attack but Akashdeep failed to meet Ramandeep Singh’s cross in the sixth minute. Two minutes later, an unmarked Danish Mujtaba’s shot from another blistering raid was saved by goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch.

Belgium, who beat India through a final minute winner during their last encounter at the World Cup this summer, made the hosts pay for their misses with two goals in a space of six minutes.

Felix Denayer slammed home a low shot from a penalty corner in the 12th minute before Sebastien Dockier gave a gorgeous touch to a lovely defence-splitting ball from Tanguy Cosyns in the 18th minute to quieten the crowd.

However, in less than a minute, Rupinder halved the deficit with a brilliant drag-flick as the crowd started roaring again. In the 27th minute VR Raghunath whipped in a stinging cross and his fellow Karnataka striker Uthappa deflected it brilliantly as the Indians came charging at the Belgians.

Belgium, who dictated the pace of the game, controlled most of the third quarter.
The Red Lions in fact missed two sitters and before long they would regret the chances. 

Uthappa dribbled into the circle following another counter-attack and laid a quick pass to SV Sunil. The experienced striker fluffed the shot but keeper Vanasch failed to clear it with an alert Akashdeep volleying it home in the 41st minute.

Dharamvir then capped a glorious night for the hosts, finishing off a length of the field move in the 49th minute and clinching a second straight semifinal spot and a repeat clash against Pakistan.

Quarterfinal results: Pakistan: 4 (Muhammad Umar Bhutta 16th, Muhammad Imran 30th, Muhammad Irfan 51st, 52nd) bt Netherlands: 2 (Jeroen Hertzberger 6th, Constantjin Jonker 39th); Australia: 4 (Simon Orchard 6th, Jeremy Hayward 37th, Daniel Beale 42nd, Chris Ciriello 49th) bt Argentina: 2 (Matias Paredes 16th, Manuel Brunet 35th); Germany: 2 (Moritz Furste 30th, Christopher Ruhr 58th) bt England: 0; India: 4 (Rupinder Pal Singh 18th, SK Uthappa 27th, Akashdeep Singh 41st, Dharamvir Singh 49th) bt Belgium: 2 (Felix Denayer 12th, Sebastien Dockier 18th).

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