India disastrous campaign at Hero Hockey World League Final continued as they lost 1-3 to New Zealand to succumb to their second straight defeat in Pool A at the floodlit Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium on Saturday.
New Zealand scored three field goals – one in the first half and two after the change of ends – through Shea Mcalesse (1st minute) and Stephen Jenness (40th, 50th minutes) to register their first win in the eight-team event.
India managed to reduce the margin of defeat just two minutes from the hooter through Mandeep Singh.
Just like Friday, the Indians looked rusty and out of sorts against New Zealand. India struggled throughout the entire first half and failed to create a single open chance. There was no co-ordination between the midfield and forward line and the Indians were guilty of easily giving away the ball to their opponents.
The defence, which is India's perennial problem, yet again struggled to deal New Zealand's persistent threats.
Right full-back Birendra Lakra had a nightmarish outing as not only he fumbled under pressure but struggled to tap the ball.
Lakra was not the only foul guy as the entire Indian team lacked co-ordination and understanding and did mistakes when put under pressure.
New Zealand, on the other hand, dished out a spirited display especially after their 1-6 drubbing at the hands of Germany.
The Black Sticks were promising in their forays and defended in numbers when the ball was inside their half.
Much to the disappointment of the handful of spectators present at the stadium, New Zealand surged ahead in the opening minute when Mcalesse scored with a fierce hit from top of the circle as the Indian defence was found wanting.
Stunned by the goal, the Indians went on the offensive and earned two back-to-back penalty corners in the third minute but wasted both.
India should consider itself lucky not to trail by two goals in the first half as Hugo Inglis missed an open chance from a counter attack in the 23rd minute.
After the crossover, the Indians put up a much better display and created a few chances, one of which was wasted by N Thimmaiah, who shot over from close range in the 44th minute with only New Zealand goalkeeper Devon Manchester to beat.
New Zealand doubled their lead in the 40th minute when an unmarked Jenness cleverly beat PR Sreejesh in the Indian goal.
Ten minutes later, an unmarked Jenness scored his second goal of the day with a reverse hit from the right of the goal to take the match away from India's reach.
India, however, managed to pull one back in the 68th minute through Mandeep who slotted home a loose ball.
Meanwhile in another Pool A match, England stunned world’s numero uno team and reigning Olympic champions Germany 2-1 to register their second consecutive win in the tournament.
England, who had defeated hosts India 2-0, scored two first half goals to down the pre-tournament favourites.
England sounded the board as early as in the fourth minute of the game through a field goal from Tom Carson before Germany drew level in the 11th minute their second straight through Marco Miltkau.
Ashley Jackson converted a penalty corner in the 21st minute to score the winner for England as both the teams found it difficult to breach the rival defence in the second half.
Irrespective of the two defeats, India will play in the quarter-finals as according to the format of the tournament all the eight teams will play in the knock-out stage and results of the pool games will only decide who plays whom.
India will next play Germany in their last pool match on Monday while New Zealand will take on England.
Photograph courtesy: FIH