01 July, Valencia
The Indian men’s hockey team failed to capitalize on their recent 2-1 win over Ireland as they suffered their second defeat of the 6-Nations Invitational Tournament by going down 1-0 against New Zealand in their third match on Thursday.
Both teams came into the match looking to play cautious hockey and avoid defeat, India having already suffered one against Germany in the tournament opener. The game’s tone was set, with both looking to hold fort and react through counter attacks.
In an otherwise timid first half, India had the best chance, when they stole the ball on New Zealand’s right flank, near the half way line and made their way up in a quick burst through Ramandeep. His pass, laid off to Talwinder drew out the New Zealand goalkeeper for a fine save. New Zealand had a penalty corner soon after, but Vikas Dahiya starting instead of Sreejesh kept it out with a fine save.
Minutes into the second quarter though, a rare lapse in concentration led to New Zealand’s goal, as the ball bundled over the line after Dahiya had initially saved the shot from James Coughlan. From there on, it became a case of India breaking down New Zealand’s stout defence to try and find the equaliser. They earned their first penalty corner at the end of the quarter, but Raghunath’s shot went wide. New Zealand went into halftime in the lead.
India came out much stronger in the second half, creating chances and attacking more often through the centre. They had another chance to draw level in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, this time a reversal of roles. Talwinder stole the ball and played it through to Ramandeep, whose sliding shot, negotiated while he was off balance failed to meet the target.
India kept up the barrage of attacks through the final period, forcing New Zealand deep into their own half, and soon enough, with 3 minutes to play India had their second penalty corner of the game, but New Zealand’s front runners blocked the flick to deny them the equaliser and seal the victory.
With the defeat, India find themselves at the bottom half of the points table.They will now lock horns with Argentina on Saturday.