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Kiwis hand India third defeat Sportsdesk | August 21, 2004 14:53 IST
Last Updated: August 21, 2004 17:17 IST

India turned in another mediocre display and were beaten by New Zealand 1-2 in their fourth league match in Group B in the Olympic men's hockey tournament in Athens on Saturday.

A goal from a penalty-corner after the hooter had sounded gave the Kiwis their second victory in the tournament and kept their hopes of making the semi-finals alive.

India, after suffering their third defeat, bowed out of the race for a semi-final berth and will now have to play-off for minor placings. For the sixth successive Games, since the gold medal-win at Moscow in 1980, the eight-time champions will retun from the Olympics without a medal.

It was another disappointing show by the Indians. They lacked imagination and the proficiency to open up the defence despite holding an edge for a major part of the first half and towards the end of the second session after they had restored parity to New Zealand's early second half goal.

The striking trio of Deepak Thakur, Prabhjot Singh and Gagan Ajit Singh were the worst offenders. The last-named was just unable to get going, failing to trap good passes and making a mess of the chances that came his way.

After a dull first session, in which both teams failed to force even one penalty-corner, the Kiwis struck within a minute on resumption. From a harmless-looking counter attack, Phillip Burrows found space in the Indian defence to squeeze through, after being put in possession by Simon Towns, and score with a stiff shot.

The Indians held ascendancy  thereafter but their threats at the Kiwis' goal were sporadic. Deepak Thakur had a clear look at goal couple of times, but was once foiled by the Kiwi keeper and then reverse hit wide off the target.

India's best chance to level was in the 51st minute when Dhanraj Pillay put Baljit Dhillon through with a defence-splitting pass but Dhillon, who also had a poor outing, was unable to finish despite beating the keeper. He was inches away from the post but pushed into the upright.

In the 58th minute Thakur broke through after capitalizing on a weak clearance in midfield, entered the circle and dispatched a stiff shot only to see the far upright come in his way.

With eight minutes to go for the hooter, India drew abreast from their third penalty-corner. An indirect variation saw Thakur put Halappa in possession and he in turn squared the ball for Pillay to deflect home.

With two minutes to go, Dhillon could have clinched the issue but he failed to trap a pass from Pillay.

Just when it looked as if the teams would take a point easy from a draw, the Kiwis forced their second penalty-corner, which resulted in three more being forced, the last two after the hooter had sounded. After the third penalty-corner, umpire Ray O'Connor signalled the end of the match with the score tied 1-1, but, surprisingly, the other official, Xavier Adell of Spain, who was in the other half, overruled his decision and signalled another penalty-corner.

Hayden Shaw's scoop, after three abortive attempts, from the top of the circle beat goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza and logged into the net to give the Kiwis victory and a ray of hope of making it to the semis.

The Indians protested but in vain. They later lodged a formal protest with the organising committee but it was turned down.

Tournament Director Doyer Wiert of the Netherlands, in a statement, said: "The decision to award the goal was the decision of an umpire during a match.

"I am firmly of the view that the match had not ended. Accordingly, Regulation 18.4 prohibits me from considering the protest."

India's last league match against Argentina will be played on Monday.

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