London: India`s semi final hopes in Olympic Games men`s hockey competition were dealt a severe blow when the side slumped to a humiliating 1-3 defeat against New Zealand on Wednesday.
Defensive lapses led to the Bharat Chetri-led side`s second successive loss in Group B, having opened their campaign on Monday with a 2-3 defeat against formidable the Netherlands.
The second straight loss in the tough six-team pool has put their campaign off the track and the team will now have a tough task to make the last four stage.
Conceding soft penalty corners and allowing the rival strikers plenty of leeway inside the circle, India`s defence allowed New Zealand to call the shots even after taking an early lead.
Sandeep Singh`s second minute penalty corner conversion kept India ahead for 10 minutes before the `Black Sticks` hit back to score three goals in the first session through Andrew Hayward (12th minute), Phillip Burrows (24th) and Nicholas Wilson (29th) to leave the Indians shattered.
India`s efforts to bounce back in the second session saw them frequently break into the rival circle, but were unable to change the scoreline.
New Zealand, winners of the Azlan Shah Cup two months ago, had lost their opening match 0-2 to South Korea, while India suffered a 2-3 reversal against The Netherlands, who now lead the Group B table with six points from two matches after posting a 3-1 victory over Belgium today.
New Zealand had beaten India 5-1 in their last meeting in the Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh (Malaysia).
India opened scoring in second minute through a penalty corner conversion by Sandeep, making the most out of the first Indian raid on the New Zealand citadel.
New Zealand responded by forcing their first penalty corner in the third minute, but the Indian goal had a close shave as Simon Child`s deflection from Andrew Hayward`s shot rebounded off the horizontal.
New Zealand pressed hard to dominate the first session and drew level in the 12th minute when a poor defence conceded a soft penalty corner that was converted by Hayward, who sent a shoulder high drag-flick past goalkeeper Bharat Chetri.
Soon after S V Sunil`s deflection on a cross from S K Uthappa went wide of the post, but poor defence continued to be India`s bane.
New Zealand striker Stephen Jenness was allowed to have a swing at a stray ball inside the cricle in the 16th minute, but India survived as he did not connect when the defenders were in disarray.
The Indian goal again came under pressure in the 22nd minute when Sardar Singh found himself defending against three New Zealand strikers, but managed to hold his ground.
New Zealand went ahead 2-1 in the 24th minute on a penalty stroke, which resulted from a penalty corner shot by Hayward struck Ignace Tirkey`s body as he tried a goalline save.
The penalty stroke was converted by Phillip Burrows, who placed it to the right of goalkeeper Chetri. India then mounted two raids that saw Tushar Khandekar`s shot from the left sail across the goalmouth as Dharamvir Singh failed to connect in the 27th minute.
Just as India were trying to push ahead, another defensive lapse saw New Zealand score their third goal in the 29th minute.
A faulty clearance presented the ball to Shea McAleese and his back-pass allowed Nicholas Wilson to flick past goalkeeper Chetri, who was replaced by P R Sreejesh at half-time.
India played a better game in the second session and had a period of sustained pressure, but failed to pose much threat to the New Zealand goal. The Indian strikers repeated broke into the circle, and then gave the ball away, not even managing to earn a penalty corner.