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Champions Trophy: India’s loss to Belgium shows the over dependence on goalkeeper Sreejesh

Belgium roared back into form to beat a slightly off-colour India 2-1 in the  Champions Trophy and join a pack of three teams with four points, all jostling for second place on the leader’s board. World Champions Australia sits on top with Great Britain, India and Belgium in second spot. But it is India, impressive in their last two matches, who would be wondering if they might have to pay dearly for the loss against Belgium by surrendering a possible place in the final.

The goals for Belgium came off Alexander Hendrickx (25th) and Jerome Truyens (44th). For India, their lone goal was scored by Devindar Walmiki in the 30th minute.

 Champions Trophy: India’s loss to Belgium shows the over dependence on goalkeeper Sreejesh

Cedric Charlier and Raghunath Vokkaliga battle for the ball during India vs Belgium. PTI

Rains and a heavy pitch welcomed the Indian team who were looking for a win to push their case for a place in the final. Even though, the first quarter was even, one could feel the sluggishness of the Indian midfield and forward line.

Sunil came alive only in the second half of the match while Mandeep might as well have been invisible. Worse, in the last ten minutes, he sat out for five minutes with a yellow card.

The defence did manage a structure and played well but a man who would probably watch the videos many times tonight would be the Indian captain and goalkeeper S Sreejesh. Not that he didn’t keep well but two big time errors let in those Belgian goals; both zipping between Sreejeshs’ pads. Jerome Truyens, the scorer of the match-winner said ‘the goalkeeper could have kept that out.’

But we have come to expect seriously high standards from Sreejesh and his importance and the need to be consistent shows how much the Indian team depends on him to deliver.

Belgium was finding their feet in the midfield. They cut the Indian passes off and blocked that zone starving the Indian forwards. It’s then that Belgium got two penalty corners which the defence and Sreejesh saved. But the elementary mistake came in the fourth penalty corner. Alexander Hendrickx flick had pace but nothing of the sort that would have bothered Sreejesh. He, however, didn’t squat full, leaving his right pad loose as the ball hit the inside and rolled into goal. Such is the flexibility of Sreejesh that even then he twisted around but only to watch the ball roll in.

Four minutes later, Sunil got an opportunity and he sped in from the right flank but only to crash into van Doren. The loose ball was picked up by an overlapping Surender Kumar whose cross into the striking circle was padded away by Vincent Vanasch. Unseen and unmarked Devindar Walmiki with acres of space in front smashed the ball over Vanasch and into goal. India had equalized 1-1 at the break.

The next two quarters promised a lot but India disappointed. Except for the defenders and to some extent, a few stirring runs from Hardeep, the punch was missing. Belgium sensed the reluctance of the Indians to string together moves and took over the midfield and started stretching India on the flanks. India came close once off their second penalty corner when Raghunath smartly dodged the runner and then flicked it in but Vanasch brought off a brilliant save.

It was a counter attack that gave Belgium the lead in the 44th minute. Simon Gougnard sped past two Indian defenders and seeing Jerome on the right side of the striking circle, pushed it to him. Jerome was on the run and in the same movement hit straight at Sreejesh who was cutting the angle. The ball travelling at high speed zipped between the Indian goalkeeper’s pads. It was an error no goalkeeper would be proud off.

In the fourth quarter, Belgium was moving the ball around confidently. India lost too many turnovers and kept giving the ball away, leading to three penalty corners for Belgium. With eight penalty corners to India’s two, Belgium’s dominance was not in doubt.

Belgian coach Shane Mcleod was pleased as punch. “It wasn’t a pretty game but the important thing was to win the match. India is a strong team and we had to be careful. But every game we now need to do better.”

Indian midfielder Manpreet Singh said they weren’t too disappointed and ‘ensured that the team would fight back strongly against South Korea on Tuesday.”

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Updated Date: Jun 14, 2016 10:46:27 IST