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India crush New Zealand 3-0 at Azlan Shah Cup

India came up with extraordinary skills to excel against New Zealand as they won 3-0 in their second match at the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup tournament here on an entertaining Sunday.

It was India’s 2016 Junior World Cup winners Mandeep Singh (23′) and Harmanpreet Singh (27′ and 47′), who scored for India while the defence led by Rupinder Pal Singh and Surender Kumar ensured they stayed in lead to win the match and enthrall the Indian supporters in Ipoh.

Though the first quarter ended in a stalemate, New Zealand had pushed India on the backfoot right at the start as they attacked with speed and precision.

The Black Sticks kept the Indian goalkeeper P.R Sreejesh busy through the first 15 minutes forcing him to save as many as three goals. New Zealand were the first to earn a PC in the sixth minute when their attacker found Pardeep Mor’s foot in the circle. But Sreejesh was impressive when he denied dragger Sam Lane’s well-executed flick.

India’s S.V Sunil came close to scoring in the 12th minute when he was assisted by Harmanpreet Singh but he couldn’t get the right connection with his shot lacking power.

The second quarter, however, belonged to India as they took an impressive 2-0 lead.

They came out of the first break with an improvised game, made clever forays with innovative formations into the striking circle and found success in the 23rd minute when Junior World Cup winner Sumit and Chinglensana Kangujam set-up the goal for forward Mandeep Singh who deflected the ball beating Richard Joyce into the post giving India a much-needed 1-0 lead.

Later, in the 27th minute India forward Akashdeep Singh found defender Alex Shaw’s foot when he was dribbling into the circle. The chance was capitalized by young dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh who was impeccable with a brilliantly struck flick that beat New Zealand keeper Richard like a bolt.

A clever-thinking Sardar Singh set-up another PC for India when he found captain Manpreet Singh at the circle who found the New Zealand defender’s feet but India couldn’t score from the opportunity. India earned another PC in the dying minutes of the second quarter but couldn’t capitalize as India went into the half-time with a comfortable 2-0 lead.

The Black Sticks’ hope of coming back into the game in the third quarter was dented with a strong defensive structure showcased by India.

Roelant Oltmans’ men did well in retaining the lead as they went into the fourth quarter putting further pressure on the Black Sticks. India did well to win their 4th PC within two minutes of the fourth quarter and Harmanpreet Singh was assertive as he struck his second goal of the match.

He picked up the ball with precision and sent it high up giving no chance for the New Zealand keeper to save it. This 47th minute goal gave India a formidable 3-0 lead.

Harjeet and Mandeep came up with smart hockey winning India their fifth PC but Harmanpreet Singh missed the opportunity to score another goal but the team almost immediately won another PC but Harmanpreet Singh’s attempt at a hat-trick went amiss as his flick went slightly wide.

Talwinder Singh won India their seventh PC in the 55th minute but Rupinder Pal Singh’s flick was saved by keeper Devon Manchester but kept the lead to score their first win of the tournament.

India will next take on defending champions Australia on May 2. (ANI)

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