Tokyo: Favourite India suffered their first defeat as they went down 1-2 World No. 8 New Zealand in the men’s hockey of the Olympic Test Event, at the Oi Hockey Stadium here on Sunday
Captain and Drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh gave India the lead in the 2nd minute by converting a Penalty Corner, but New Zealand struck back in the last quarter through two well-crafted field goals which were scored by Jacob Smith (47′) and Sam Lane (60′).
World No. 5 India ,having recorded an impressive 6-0 win against Malaysia in their opening tie, started the match with an aggressive approach and dominated possession in the opening few minutes.
India won their first Penalty Corner in just the 2nd minute, which was converted by Harmanpreet to give his team a quick 1-0 lead.
India continued to attack and won another Penalty Corner in the 6th minute, but could not find the target from the execution. It was a difficult phase for the New Zealand team as they were under constant pressure, but given their recent experience of playing in the FIH Pro League, the World No. 8 side defended well, and avoided giving away another goal before the half-time break.
India tried to extend their lead in the initial few minutes of the third quarter through some good combination play inside New Zealand’s striking circle, however they could not find another break-through. Harmanpreet Singh had another chance to extend his team’s lead in the 42nd minute, but could only force New Zealand’s Goalkeeper Richard Joyce into making a good save.
The last quarter of the match saw New Zealand turn around the momentum as they started to attack the Indians on the counter. It was in the 47th minute that New Zealand worked out a good combination in the Indian half, and produced an effective attack which saw Jacob Smith find the back of the net to equalize.
The Indians were dealt with a huge blow, but looked to restore their one-goal advantage in the remaining minutes. They had some opportunities inside the last quarter but could not capitalize.
With barely a minute remaining on the clock, it was New Zealand’s turn to counter and their execution was perfect as they scored the winner through Sam Lane, who took advantage of India being short of players in defense.