India grimly hung on to an early lead to prevail 1-0 over Belgium and advance to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament, at the State Hockey Centre, in Melbourne, on Thursday.
The goal that settled the fate of the quarter-final contest came in the 13th minute off the first shot India had at the rival goal.
Nitin Thimmaiah capitalised on a rebound to send a firm shot into the right corner of the goal. The rebound had come to Thimmaiah on top of the circle following Gurmail Singh's try off a cross from Birendra Lakra.
India had very few chances thereafter and were forced to fall back to defend stoutly as the Belgians asserted strength in midfield.
Belgium forced six penalty-corners against India's one.
It was because of a fine display by defenders V R Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh, besides goalkeeper T R Potunuri, that India managed to maintain their lead.
Belgium had beaten India in their last two encounters -- in the final of the Champions Challenge last year and the preliminary league of the Olympic Games in London.
India are now in the hunt for their first medal since their lone Champions Trophy bronze in 1982. This will also be India's highest finish since 2004, when they lost the bronze medal match to end up fourth.
In the semi-finals, India will take on four-time defending champions Australia, who beat England 2-0.
Pakistan shock Olympic champs Germany
In another quarter-final, Shakeel Abbasi scored twice as Pakistan pulled off a surprise 2-1 victory over Olympic champions Germany and advanced to the semi-finals.
This is the first time since 2004 that former champions Pakistan made it to the medal round of the competition.
The Germans, meanwhile, failed to enter the last four stage for the second successive year.
In the semi-finals, Pakistan will take on Olympic Games silver medallists The Netherlands, who posted a 2-0 win against New Zealand in another quarter-final match.
- Indian defence holds firm
In the last three minutes of the first half, the Belgian strikers had chances, but committed fouls just before putting the ball in the net. India, hence, retained the lead at the interval.
Just before the hooter, Felix Denayer deflected a set-piece attempt into the goal, but the umpire had blown for a foul, in the process of switching the ball toward him.
That was the last time the ball went past Indian goalkeeper Potunuri, whose composed defence allowed India to stand their ground later for two minutes in the match when they were reduced to nine players.
Gurwinder Singh Chandi was off with a yellow card for raising his stick in a reactionary manner, while captain Sardar Singh was penalised for the defenders surrounding an umpire during a video referral in the 64th minute.
The Indian defence managed to keep the lead intact, although they came under intense pressure when all the rival players were in the Indian territory.
Throughout the match, the Indians failed to keep control of the ball, building pressure on the defence.
Even with five minutes remaining and India leading, the strikers kept throwing away the ball and kept their own citadel under pressure till the last second.
Photograph: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images