Ipoh (Malaysia), May 6 (IANS) India thrashed New Zealand 4-0 to finish third in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Saturday.
Defender Rupinder Pal Singh (17th, 27th minutes) slammed home two penalty corners in the second quarter before S.V. Sunil (48th) and Talwinder Singh (60th) scored field goals in the last period to add gloss to India’s win.
India had finished runners-up in last year’s edition when they had lost 0-4 to Australia in the final.
India made a dominating start, creating plenty of opportunities in the first quarter putting New Zealand on the backfoot.
Only a minute into the game, India earned their first penalty corner when Sunil found Kane Russell’s foot in the penalty circle. Harmanpreet Singh’s flick hit New Zealand’s first rusher giving India another opportunity at a penalty corner. The Kiwi defence, however, denied India an early lead.
Another chance was lost when an impulsive Mandeep Singh on the counter-attack raced into the striking circle and took a shot on goal but was thwarted by an alert Richard Joyce in the New Zealand goal.
With three minutes to go for the first hooter, Manpreet Singh set-up a perfect shot on goal with Mandeep perfectly poised to take the attempt but unfortunately the youngster couldn’t get a deflection.
In the second quarter, Akashdeep Singh was quick to win India their third penalty corner with some good dribbling skills in the circle.
Rupinder ensured this chance didn’t go begging with a well-timed flick sending it low on the right to beat Joyce and hand the lead to India.
India kept the Malaysian spectators entertained with a thrilling charge made by Mandeep Singh who raced into the striking circle only to assist Akashdeep with a square pass. Though they couldn’t convert a field goal, the attempt helped India win their fourth penalty corner.
Joyce made a good attempt to save Rupinder’s flick but the umpire awarded India another penalty corner due to dangerous play. This time Rupinder used a similar tactic of sending the ball low on the right that worked like magic, beating Joyce yet again.
This was Rupinder’s third goal in the tournament.
New Zealand made desperate attempts at coming back into the game in the third quarter. But India continued to impress with their attack, trying to find space for a third goal.
The defenders too put up a spirited performance to ensure India held on to the lead.
India scored their third goal when Mandeep tackled two New Zealand defenders at the baseline to set up Sunil with a brilliant square pass. Sunil was impressive as he beat defender Cory Bennett to score a sensational goal.
A video referral was upheld in favour of New Zealand when Affan Yousuf assisted skipper Manpreet who took a successful shot on goal in the dying minutes. But since it came off the back of the stick, the goal was denied.
But Manpreet was involved in winning India their fourth goal when he made a baseline pass to Talwinder who was spot on with his attempt.