A structured defence and clinical attack saw India beat hosts New Zealand 3-1 in the final round-robin match of the double-leg Four-Nation Invitational Hockey Tournament, at Blake Park in Tauranga, New Zealand, on Saturday.
On Sunday India will take on Belgium, who beat Japan 4-1, in the final.
India’s young brigade of Harmanpreet Singh (2nd minute), Dilpreet Singh (12th) and Mandeep Singh (47th) got the goals after the team's 0-2 loss to Belgium in the previous match.
India’s mantra was to play aggressive and that’s exactly what they did right from the start.
Their first breakthrough came as early as the second minute when a circle entry fetched them a penalty-corner, created by Mandeep Singh.
Harmanpreet Singh who stepped up for the drag-flick was impeccable and fierce as he improvised the injection to flick the ball past New Zealand goalkeeper Richard Joyce.
The early goal undoubtedly put the Black Sticks on the backfoot.
The next few minutes saw India hold their defence with Rupinder Pal Singh, who was rested for the match against Belgium, leading the charge of defenders as their man-to-man marking was spot on, not allowing New Zealand to make easy forays into India’s circle.
India colt Dilpreet Singh, who had scored two goals in his first outing for the national side, was impressive when he picked up an assist to put the ball past the New Zealand goal post in the 21st minute, taking India’s lead to a comfortable 2-0.
India held on to the lead with a well-rounded performance. Though India conceded a penalty-corner in the 42nd minute which was well-executed by New Zealand's Kane Russell, they did not drop the momentum and continued to attack swiftly and tactically.
In the 47th minute, Mandeep Singh was excellent in the circle to score an impressive goal to earn India a 3-1 score-line.
"We started the match much better today and I saw individual improvement. It’s important for the players to keep pushing themselves. I am particularly happy about today’s win because the team did a lot of analysing ahead of the match and their keenness to improve was evident," said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.