This piece was published in Sportskeeda
A strong start to a tournament is so very important for any side irrespective of whether one is defending champions or not. The Indian junior men’s hockey team did make the right noises, kickstarting their campaign in the 4th Sultan of Johor Cup hockey tournament prevailing over New Zealand by the odd goal in Johor Bahur, Malaysia.
The Harjeet Singh-captained Indian side did not take much time to trouble the scorers as Parvinder Singh struck first blood in the 5th minute of play. New Zealand did not quite hustle the Indians out of their strides and allowed their opponents to hold sway. The junior Black Sticks forced two penalty corners, but the Indian defence stood tall and denied them any scoring chances. The Harendra Singh-coached Indians rotated the ball well and used the width of the turf effectively, dominating the New Zealanders in midfield. India were reduced to ten man when Varun Kumar was green-carded, but New Zealand failed to make the most of it even as India hung on to a solitary goal lead at half-time.
The script unfolded in the second half much like the first half. Varun Kumar made amends for his earlier green card suspension converting India’s second penalty corner of an indirect execution. New Zealand did not throw in the towel and reduced the deficit when Nick Woods fired home a robust penalty corner goal beating Indian goalkeeper Pandey to his right – their first conversion out of three PCs.
India survived some anxious moments in the closing stages as New Zealand forced a short corner in the final minute of play, but the Indian defence foiled that attempt to glean full points.
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