A year and one day on from a 3-1 victory over Chile at the World Cup, the Vantage Black Sticks Men clinched another 3-1 victory against the same opponent in the opening match of their Olympic Qualification campaign.
Despite the score lines being the same a year apart, the performance from the men in black was far superior, dominating almost the entirety of the match and dictating the tempo.
The first quarter set the tone for the Kiwis’ dominance, as Chile opted for a defensive strategy, allowing New Zealand to control possession.
After seven minutes of probing and searching for openings, Simon Yorston unleashed a precise pass from the halfway line. Joe Morrison, in his first match back from injury since that World Cup, redirected the ball towards the goal, with Jake Smith, also returning from injury after the World Cup, spectacularly putting it into the net to break the deadlock.
Five minutes later, the Black Sticks extended their lead with a brilliant play. Kane Russell’s powerful delivery into the circle found Scott Boyde, who showed his ability by swiping the ball into the goal, his first for New Zealand.
Entering the second quarter, Chile aimed to shift the momentum, launching their first attack of the game and appearing to have scored. However, their efforts were thwarted as a goal was denied due to the use of the back of the stick.
The remainder of the quarter saw New Zealand creating numerous opportunities, though Chile displayed a resilient defence.
Chile continued to maintain a solid defensive setup in the third quarter but struggled to generate attacking opportunities.
With a mere 20 seconds left in the quarter, Sean Findlay’s precise pass from the top of the D reached Aidan Sarikaya on the wing. Sarikaya’s well-executed cross found Sam Lane, who calmly slotted the ball past the goalkeeper, widening the lead to 3-0.
The final quarter was more subdued, with New Zealand dominating possession but facing a stubborn Chilean defence. Despite the Black Sticks’ efforts in breaching the circle, Chile managed to stifle clear goal-scoring opportunities.
In the dying moments, Chile secured a consolation goal, catching New Zealand off guard as Franco Beccera unleashed a powerful reverse shot from the top of the circle, capitalising on what the Black Sticks thought was a pause in play due to a second ball on the pitch.
The match was also a notable milestone for three Black Sticks: Kane Russell, Hugo Inglis, and Blair Tarrant, having all grown up playing hockey together in Otago, combined for their 700th international appearance (Russell 200, Inglis and Tarrant 250).
The Black Sticks Men will next face Germany in their second pool match tomorrow, Wednesday 1am NZT. With the Black Sticks Women pushing back half an hour earlier in their must-win clash with the USA. Both games will be live and on-demand on TVNZ+.