Four Nations Invitational Hockey: India march into finals after beating New Zealand 3-1 in last round-robin game
India's young brigade Harmanpreet Singh (2), Dilpreet Singh (12) and Mandeep Singh (47) got their names onto the score sheet as they breeze into the Finals.
Tauranga: A structured defence and clinical attack saw India beat hosts New Zealand 3-1 in the final round robin match of the double-leg Four Nations Invitational Hockey Tournament at Blake Park. India will play the final on Sunday against Belgium, who beat Japan 4-1.
It was India's young brigade Harmanpreet Singh (2), Dilpreet Singh (12) and Mandeep Singh (47) who scored after the team had suffered a 0-2 loss against Belgium in their previous match. India's mantra was to play aggressive and that's exactly what they did right from the start.
Their first breakthrough came as early as the second minute of the match when a circle entry fetched them a PC created by Mandeep Singh. It was Harmanpreet Singh who stepped up for the drag flick and he was impeccable and fierce as he improvised the injection to flick the ball past New Zealand goal keeper Richard Joyce. The early goal undoubtedly put the Black Sticks on the backfoot.
The next few minutes saw India hold their defence with Rupinder Pal Singh, who was rested for the match against Belgium, leading the charge of defenders as their man-to-man marking was spot on, not allowing New Zealand to make easy forays into India's circle.
India colt Dilpreet Singh, who had scored two goals in his first outing for the national side, was impressive when he picked up the assist to put the ball past the New Zealand goal post in the 21st minute, taking India's lead to a comfortable 2-0.
India held on to the lead with a well-rounded performance. Though India conceded a PC in the 42nd minute which was well-executed by New Zealand's Kane Russell, India didn't drop their momentum and continued their attack swiftly and tactically.
In the 47th minute, Mandeep Singh was excellent in the circle to score an impressive goal to earn India a 3-1 score- line.
"We started the match much better today and I saw individual improvement. Its important for the players to keep pushing themselves. I am particularly happy about today's win because the team did a lot of analysing ahead of the match and their keenness to improve was evident," said chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.
The 22-year-old from Jalandhar attributed their success at the recent tours of Argentina and Europe to the high-intensity training at the camp.
"The Argentina tour was an important experience for all of us. We were yearning for proper match practice while building up towards the Olympics," Nilakanta said in a Hockey India release.
The Indian women's hockey core group had returned to the national camp in Bengaluru on Sunday last to restart the preparations for the Tokyo Olympics after a 10-day break.