A rusty-looking Indian women’s ice hockey team gave up possession quite easily a few times before putting up a fight in the fourth quarter, but ultimately lost 2-1 to Belgium in their first of two-legged FIH Pro League games here on Saturday.
After an offensive start to the game, both teams created chances in the opening minutes, but Belgium got better when they took the lead through captain Nelen Barbara in the third minute.
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The hosts put pressure on India with their structured attack, earning two penalty corners each in the 5th and 7th, but the Indian defense held firm and prevented them from scoring the second goal.
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Minutes later, India earned their first penalty corner of the game, but Rani’s attempt went wide, missing the equalizer in the first quarter.
A goal behind, India began to put pressure on the Belgian defense and midfield. They even created a chance in the early minutes, but Neha’s pass to Salima Tete in the circle went wide.
The home side responded with a quick counterattack that earned them consecutive penalty corners, but once again failed to convert their chances.
With Belgium slightly dominating possession, they tried to create chances but the Indian defense fought hard against everything the hosts threw at them and ensured no further goals were scored at the end of the first half.
Belgium started the third quarter aggressively and earned a penalty corner in the 32nd minute, but their attempt went wide of the goalpost. Andre Ballenghien hit the net in the 35th minute and gave the hosts a 2-0 lead.
The Indian defense was caught off guard as Belgium quickly took the far corner and Ballenghien finished off with a pass into the circle.
After a few more forays into the Indian circle, Belgium earned another penalty corner but failed to convert it as their attempt caught the Belgian attacker’s foot.
India didn’t give up easily and launched an impromptu attack where they took one of their two chances early in the last quarter.
After a shot on goal from Ishka Choudhary, it was young striker Lalremsiami who scored for India in the 48th minute. She won the ball in the attacking quarter and calmly shoved it into the goal.
India continued to press Belgium to equalize in the closing stages of the game, but the home side kept the Indians at bay and sealed a 2-1 victory.
It was a memorable game for veteran player Rani, who has 250 caps.
India meets Belgium in the second game of the Pro League on June 12th.