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Two down, India hold New Zealand
May 27, 2005 16:06 IST
Last Updated: May 27, 2005 17:43 IST
India wasted a plethora of chances but still clawed back from a two-goal deficit to hold New Zealand 2-2 in their second league encounter in the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament, in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.
The Indians, who went into the lemon break trailing 0-2, came back strongly in the second half and dominated the proceedings for the entire 35 minutes during which they scored twice to secure a point.
Rajpal Singh (44th minute) and Prabhjot Singh (63rd) scored for the Indians after Darren Smith (21st) and Bevan Hari (25th) had found the net for the Kiwis in the first half.
India, three-times champions in the tournament, did not have a very good start to the match and were found wanting in all departments as the New Zealanders built pressure from the flanks.
The constant pressure paid off when Smith got an easy ball at the top of the circle and made no mistake in sending it to the back of the net.
New Zealand doubled the lead within four minutes when Bevan tapped in a fine cross by Hamish Baron.
Pushed to the wall, India resorted to the tactics of sending long balls into the opponent's circle and the move began to pay dividends as New Zealand went on the defensive.
In fact, the Indians' dominance was so profound that they earned as many as seven penalty-corners in the second half, five within a span of nine minutes, but Len Aiyappa failed to reproduce the same magic which saw him score two goals and help India beat South Africa on Monday.
However, Aiyappa was instrumental in helping the Indians to reduce the deficit. He gave a great ball to Rajpal inside the circle and the latter made no mistake in beating the Kiwi custodian.
Prabhjot, who missed at least three sitters, restored parity when he showed good presence of mind to score off India's eighth and final penalty-corner.
Though India salvaged a point from the match after being down by two goals they must surely be ruing the number of lost opportunities in the second half.
It was bad trapping inside the opponent's circle, which should be a major cause of concern for India's new coach Rajinder Singh (Jr), that allowed the 'Black Sticks' to get away when under pressure. Had the Indian forwards converted the opportunities that came their way the scoreline would have looked a lot different.
India took advantage of a one-man advantage, after Dean Cousins was shown the yellow card and sent out by Vincent Loos of Belgium for deliberately blocking Rajpal. They reduced the margin as Rajpal found the mark in a goalmouth skirmish after Aiyappa hit a ferocious free hit into the circle.
Buoyed by this, India were all over the Kiwi area but excellent goalkeeping by Woolford denied them parity.
It eventually came from the last penalty-corner. It was an indirect conversion by Prabhjot, who got the ball from Tirkey and had only the goalkeeper to beat.
India did not give up hopes of finding the winner in the last five minutes, but the two attempts from Thakur and Arjun Halappa were well negotiated by their rivals.
With today's result India have four points from two games and will next play hosts Malaysia on Sunday.
New Zealand have one point from two outings and are scheduled to take on Australia also on Sunday.
India's coach Rajinder Singh (Jr) said that India played superior hockey and should have won the match hands down, but the forwards faltered at the crucial moments.
"The boys played much better today as compared to the first game and I am hopeful that this tempo will be continuing as the tournament goes along," he added.