Ipoh: Two second-half goals by New Zealand dashed India's hopes of adding to their five Sultan Azlan Shah Cup titles as the young Indian team bowed out of contention with a 0-2 loss to world No. 6 Black Sticks.
The New Zealanders, who hardly gave India a chance to score in the first half, were on the mark in the 40th and 55th minutes with goals off penalty corners (PC) from Andy Hayward and Cory Bennett, respectively. India struggled to get past a sea of black shirts for most part of the match as New Zealand's man-to-man marking worked to perfection, cutting Indian moves into half.
The Indians got two PCs in the 53rd and 69th minutes, but failed to make use of those opportunities. In comparison, New Zealand earned four PCs and scored off two of those.
The result pushed New Zealand up to third position with six points, while India languish at the sixth position with just three, which means Michael Nobbs' boys will now not be able to catch table-toppers Australia and Malaysia even if they beat the hosts in their last pool engagement on Saturday.
The first half saw India enjoying more of the possession, but still New Zealand had more shots on goal - four compared to India's one. It was largely due to the good work by the two defensive walls that kept the scoreline 0-0 at half-time. India custodian PR Sreejesh continued to show exemplary goalkeeping and denied the Black Sticks from scoring in the first 35 minutes.
The second half saw match's first penalty corner being earned by New Zealand and they made the most of it by taking the lead through Hayward's low but hard flick. Dharamvir Singh almost equalised for India soon after but his hit went well over the crossbar.
The game went out of India's reach in the 55th minute when Bennett deposited the rebound off Sreejesh into the goal off New Zealand's third penalty corner.
After the match, India coach Micheal Nobbs told PTI that his young team didn't play anywhere near as well as it did against Pakistan. "The disturbing factor was to see the boys missing out on elementary things like dropping the call and not marking the man in penalty corner conversions. We played far below our potential. We did not even play 50 per cent of the way we played against Pakistan," Nobbs said.
In the other matches of the day, Australia were held to a 3-3 draw by Korea and Pakistan had to settle for a 2-2 draw against the in-form Malaysia. The two results kept Australia and Malaysia on top of the points table with eight points each, but Australia have a much better goal difference of +7 compared to Malaysia's +2.
New Zealand are third with six points, followed by Korea and Pakistan with four points each. India, who have lost three and won a solitary game, are sixth with 3 points, though still in with a chance to qualify for the bronze-medal play-off if they beat Malaysia on Saturday and other results pan out in their favour.