Perth: A lacklustre India conceded three early goals as they were outplayed by New Zealand 3-6 in their opening match of Lanco International Super Series Hockey 9s tournament on Thursday.
India failed to shed off old habits of slow passing and slower goal-building moves much against the fast-paced game of their rivals and they conceded goals in regular intervals to frustrate the fairly large crowd who came to support them at the Perth Hockey Stadium on the opening day of the tournament.
The new format was put in place to play the game in a faster pace and increase the number of goals in each match but it seemed that India had a lot to do if they have to make an impact.
New Zealand were 3-0 up in no time after Stephen Jennes opened scoring in the sixth minute outsmarting otherwise alert defender Majit Kullu. Within a minute, Blair Hilton converted a half chance into a goal before Benjamin scored the best goal of the contest to put the Kiwis with three-goal cushion.
It was a reflexive backhander from the right top of the circle that took Indian captain and goalkeeper Bharat Chetri unawares. Even after taking 3-0 lead, New Zealand kept attacking and India had to thwart many surges.
Danish Mujtaba gave finishing touches to the medio Sardar Singh`s superb work in the 12th minute to score India`s first goal but they still needed to clear a two-goal deficit.
Sardar Singh, who was in fine touch, scored India`s second goal from the first penalty corner they got two minutes after the first break to give a semblance of a fight.
Substitute Ravi Pal then punched a hard one from the top of circle in the 24th minute to give India a chance to come back into the match at 3-4 scoreline.
However, India failed to keep up the tempo and seemed to have lost the match mentally also. They resorted to short passing and slow goal building, which did not work.
To make matters worse, India had to play with a player less for considerable time on account of V R Raghunath arguing for a goal and getting the wrath of Australian umpire Dan Johnston.
Yuvraj Walmik got an excellent opportunity after being fed by hard-working Gurbaj but his forehand shot just hit the far away post and spun away, missing a chance to restore parity.
First Published: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 21:34