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Azlan Shah hockey: India thrashed by New Zealand

Source: PTI
Last updated on: May 24, 2012 20:18 IST

India began their campaign in the 21st Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament with an embarrassing 1-5 defeat at the hands of speedy New Zealand, in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Thursday.

In the opening match of the tournament, Pakistan defeated Argentina 4-2, while hosts Malaysia held South Korea to a 1-1 draw in the day's concludng fixture.

Starting with an opportunistic strike past a rusty Indian defence in the opening minute, New Zealand ripped through the Indian backline as five different players registered their names on the scoresheet to repeat their runway victory last year.

New Zealand, who are drawn in the same group as India at the London Olympic Games, had outplayed India 7-3 in the 2011 Azlan Shah Cup, when India finished sixth in a field of seven nations despite starting as double defending champions.

Simon Child (1st minute), Andy Hayward (34th), Nick Wilson (32nd), Stephen Jenness (61st) and Matt L'huillier (65th) scored for New Zealand, who only the previous night had one of their players, Blair Hilton ruled out of the tournament after undergoing emergency surgery for appendicitis.

India's lone goal, scored by Shivendra Singh in the sixth minute, kept the scores level at 1-1 till the 34th minute.

New Zealand stunned the Indian defence in the opening minute of play when defender Sandeep Singh faltered in stopping a long shot inside the circle. Child made India pay for the lapse by picking the ball and slamming it into the board despite two defenders and the goalkeeper being in the circle.

India drew parity five minutes later when Shivendra received a long through pass from Birender Lakra and beat a defender before slotting it past New Zealand custodian Kyle Pontifex.

The Indian defence wilted under New Zealand's persistent attacks midway in the first session, but just managed to hang on as goalkeeper P R Sreejesh warded off a series of shots following three successive penalty- corners in the 16th minute.

Sreejesh was again in the picture three minutes later when he blocked a penalty-corner shot from Hayward and also a rebound attempt from Nick Wilson before the ball was cleared.

India's off-colour strikers failed to make an impression on the Black Sticks. They had only shot more look at the New Zealand goal in the 23rd minute when Shivendra sent a diagonal pass to Yuvraj, who failed to control the ball and sent a high shot wide of the mark.

New Zealand scored their second goal from their fifth penalty-corner in the 34th minute when Hayward's low shot beat Sreejesh to give them a 2-1 lead at half-time.

India forced two penalty-corners in the space of four minutes, but V R  Raghunath's shots failed to trouble the New Zealand defence.

India's penalty-corner specislist Sandeep Singh was not on the field during this period.

New Zealand, who forced eight penalty-corners, came close to scoring in the 55th minute but Hayward's dragflick struck the post and rebounded into play.

New Zealand's persistent attacks then produced three goals in the space of seven minutes.

Nick Wilson ran into the circle to get a touch on a long range shot in the 58th minute and Stephen Jenness sent a stinging shot into the boards in the 61st.

L'huillier rounded off the scoring in the 65th minute with a firm penalty-corner shot.

Earlier, Pakistan drubbed Argentina 4-2 with penalty-corner ace Sohail Abbas celebrating his captaincy debut with a rasping drag-flick into the net.

Three-time champions Pakistan, who lost last year's final to Australia through a golden goal, squandered a two-goal lead to allow the tough-tackling Argentina draw 2-2 level, but then scored twice in the last five minutes to assert their supremacy.

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