Sultan Azlan Shah Cup: India lose 0-2 to New Zealand
India’s hopes for a likely final spot were made even tougher by the 3-3 drawn game between Australia and Korea which pushed India to the fifth spot.
The blueshirts went into their fourth league match against reigning champions New Zealand knowing very well that only clinical wins against their opponents and in the final league game against hosts Malaysia, would enable them to make a final berth.
But it was a bad day in office for the Indians who went down 0-2 to bow out of final contention.
The match commenced with the Black Sticks attacking the Indian ‘D’ in the very first minute but their effort was foiled.
Indian captain Danish Mujtaba made a good run from the left flank but was cleared in time.
India had a decent chance in the 9th minute when Gurmail Singh set up Akashdeep Singh, who muffed it up slamming it wide.
New Zealand looked good to pull ahead in the 12th minute when he did well to connect a drill-in from the left flank but the in-form Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh came to the rescue and palmed it away nicely covering the angle.
Sreejesh was in the thick of things four minutes later when he pulled off another good save moving to his right and essaying a right shot.
India tried to maintain possession and indulged in bouts of passing play and look threatening when Mandeep Singh dived and took a crack at the Black Sticks’ citadel, but found the goalie in the way.
New Zealand crowded their defence every time Indians weaved attacks.
The Black Sticks earned their first penalty corner in the 26th minute but they could not profit from it as Rupinder Pal Singh stopped the effort with a timely interception and put the ball out of danger.
India were reduced to ten men in the 27th minute when Mandeep Singh was given the temporary marching orders for a stick-check on a Black Sticks player.
Both teams engaged in extensive midfield battle in the closing stages of the first half as they trooped out with a 0-0 scoreline as the half-time hooter was blown.
India had to soak up pressure from New Zealand in the second half. The Black Sticks went ahead in the 40th minute when Andy Hayward converted a penalty corner.
India did managed to force their first penalty corner when Malak singh was tripped outside the ‘D’ but they failed to capitalize on it.
Cory Bennett doubled the lead in the 57th minute when he breached the defences of Sreejesh, leaving India in peril.
India pushed hard to come back into the contest but New Zealand held out firmly. The men in blue were awarded a short corner two minutes from the final hooter Rupinder Pal Singh’s indirect effort meant that the chance went abegging.
With this defeat, India are out for contention for a podium finish.