MEN LOSE THRILLER IN OPENING MATCH OF PRO LEAGUE
Fireworks to mark the end of Diwali and to open the 2022/23 FIH Pro League with the Vantage Black Sticks (9th World Ranking) taking on India (5th).
An absolute thriller in Bhubansewar saw India come back from two goals down to claim a strong comeback win,
With Nic Woods leading the team out onto the turf for the first team, the Black Sticks started positively with high energy and intent looking to attack straight from push back.
The Kiwis found plenty of control in midfield but, while being defensively sound, were unable to convert it into circle entries.
India also played positively in the opening stanza and found themselves with a couple of opportunities with a goal coming late in the first quarter after a brilliant long distance pass found Mandeep Mor to put the hosts up 1-0.
New Zealand responded with increased vigor to start the second with Simon Child, on his return to international hockey, sending in a fantastic ball with Sam Hiha just flashing wide on the receiving end.
The visitors were rewarded with their first penalty corner halfway through the second quarter and Sam Lane flicked beautifully at goal with the Indian defender putting his foot in the way resulting in a penalty stroke.
Lane dutifully stepped up to the spot and slotted into the bottom left corner to level the scores.
The second quarter was dominated by the Black Sticks with several more chances created but unable to be converted.
New Zealand started the second half at full pace and five minutes in found themselves in the lead after Child brilliantly worked his way into the circle and found Jake Smith who duly converted.
Only a minute later the Kiwis won a penalty corner with Lane again stepping up to flick and finding a gap between the keeper’s legs to put the Black Sticks up 3-1.
India came fighting back and won a penalty stroke midway through the third quarter to cut the lead to 3-2 with Harmenpreet Singh converting, but were then unfortunate to lose a player for 10 minutes for an infringement.
New Zealand took advantage of their numbers and won two further penalty corners but without result.
The fourth quarter was all India’s who fought back with two absolute scorchers from Mandeep Singh to take a 4-3 win.
There are plenty of positive signs for New Zealand after the team had less than a week together in the build up, with a majority of the team playing in Europe. They had 48% possession, 11 shots on goal to India’s 9, 21 circle penetrations to 18, and 9 penalty corners to India’s 1.
The Black Sticks next take on Spain Sunday 30 Oct at 2.30am NZT – live on Spark Sport.