Saturday, August 2, 2014

9th ranked India come from behind to upset 6th ranked New Zealand 3-2, reach final

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

The excitement the Indian men’s hockey team created when they fought tooth and nail against the world champions Australia before going down narrowly 2-4, paved the way for a ‘feel-good factor’ around hockey circles – the belief that this team can take on the best in the business.

The Terry Walsh-coached side was hit by the ‘early goal’ bug once again after a brief hiatus when experienced Simon Child put New Zealand ahead in the third minute of play after he was set up by Arun Panchia from the right, which saw Indian goalkeeper being embroiled in a collision with Hugo Inglis even as the ball rolled over to Simon Child.

Unperturbed by the early goal, India kept charting their comeback plans, weaving moves from both flanks, but it was the Black Sticks, who doubled the lead through Nick Hay off their second penalty corner.

Down 0-2, India showed little signs of nerves and reduced the margin close to half-time when stand-in captain Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty stroke after Dean Couzins was hit on the line off Vokkaliga Raghunath drag-flick off their first short corner.

Trailing 1-2 at hall-time, the onus was on India to call the shots and they precisely did that –  Ramandeep Singh leveling the issue in the 43rd minute after Gurbaj Sinigh drilled in a crafty pass from the right.

The second half belonged to India, who dominated the midfield even without the absence of suspended Sardar Singh. Akashdeep Singh churned out the most important match-clincher with more than twenty minutes left for the final hooter, coming up with a superb reverse flick off a Manpreet Singh from outside the New Zealand ‘D’.

The Black Sticks tried to mount a fightback, but India continued to unleash persistent attacks on their citadel leaving them unsettled. As time wore on, they drafted in Dean Couzins as their kicking back replacing goalie Devon Manchester, but India manfully thwarted all their raids to stage a major upset, closing out a fantastic 3-2 win over 6th ranked side after being 0-2 down at one stage.

India will play the Sunday’s final against Australia, who humbled England 4-1. The final will be a repeat of the 2010 edition when Australia scored a crushing 8-0 win.

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