Rampaging India thrash New Zealand 7-4 in FIH Men’s Pro League

Bhubaneswar, Nov 4:  India dished out an impressive brand of attacking hockey after trailing 1-3 at one stage to thrash New Zealand 7-4 in a high-scoring thriller in the FIH Men’s Pro League here on Friday.

The home side, who had beaten the same opponents 4-3 in the first leg on October 28, struggled in the first 15 minutes by conceding three goals but turned the match on its hand as they struck two goals each in the next three quarters.

New Zealand dominated the first quarter but later withered under India’s incessant onslaught as they could score just one goal in the next three 15-minute periods.

Captain Harmanpreet Singh (7th and 19th minute; both PCs), Karthi Selvam (17th and 38th), Raj Kumar Pal (31st), Sukhjeet Singh (50th) and Jugraj Singh (53rd) scored for India.

For New Zealand, Simon Child (2nd), Sam Lane (9th), Smith Jake (14th) and Nic Woods (54th) were the scorers.

India got 11 penalty corners in the match from which three were converted.

In the final analysis, it was a dominating performance by the Indians who produced a fine attacking hockey with 29 circle penetrations as against 13 by New Zealand. India also had 56 per cent ball possession and 12 shots at opposition goal as against six of the visiting team.

India head coach Graham Reid had talked about defensive lapses in the earlier two matches of the season and on Friday also, the home side committed blunders to concede three goals in the first 15 minutes though they pulled one back in that period.

New Zealand scored from the first attack of the match in the first minute. A low cross from Kane Russell from the right channel sped past three Indian defenders and Simon Child had all the time in the world at the other end to control and slam the ball past goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.

India got three successive penalty corners and equalised from the last one. From the first, George Enersen’s kick hit Karthi Selvam on the face, leading to the second penalty corner from which Harmanpreet fluffed.

But somehow a foul committed by New Zealand runners handed India their third penalty corner and Harmanpreet sent his drag flick to the bottom corner this time.

Three minutes later, Sam Lane scored another field goal after Surender Kumar slipped up, failing to collect an interception properly.

New Zealand made it 3-1 with less than two minutes to go in the first session with Dylan Thomas doing the spadework with a fine run on the left flank, culminating to Jake Smith’s deflection to the Indian goal off the low pass.

India came back roaring in the second session, firing in two quick goals in the space of three minutes.

Manpreet Singh showed his class as he collected a loose ball in midfield and sent a reverse-stick pass for Selvam Karthi to complete a brilliant finishing, firing past a hapless goalkeeper Enersen two minutes into the second session.

Harmanpreet then scored his second goal of the match and fourth of the tournament as his drag flick yet again went through the middle of the onrushing runners to sound the board and level the scores. It was all square (3-3) in the 18th minute, which remained like that till the end of second quarter.

India were the more attacking side in the first half with 12 circle penetration as against three of New Zealand. India also had 58 per cent ball possession.

India took the lead for the first time in the match with Rajkumar Pal tapped the ball home inside the first minute of the third quarter after New Zealand goalkeeper Enersen saved a Mandeep shot.

Selvam Karthi made it 5-3 with his second goal of the match as he neatly collected a long pass and fired home past Enersen.

After scoring two goals each in the second and third quarters without reply, a rampaging India struck twice in the third and final quarter through Sukhjeet and Jugraj to put the match to bed.

India play Spain here on Sunday in their second leg match. India had lost 2-3 to the European side on October 30.  (PTI)