Hapless India thrashed by New Zealand in Azlan Shah opener

May 24th, 2012 - 8:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Ipoh (Malaysia), May 24 (IANS) India were thrashed 1-5 by New Zealand in their first match of the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here Thursday evening.

It was a poor display from the Indians despite the fact that New Zealand had only 16 players at their disposal — Blair Hilton was ruled out for appendicitis and Hugo Inglis was indisposed.

Simon Child (1st minute), Andy Hayward (34th), Nick Wilson (59th), Stephen Jenness (61st) and Matt L’huillier (65th) scored for New Zealand. Shivendra Singh struck the solitary goal for India in the sixth minute.

New Zealand took the lead just 45 seconds into the match as Child unleashed a shot that Indian custodian Sreejesh Parathu who was fielded instead of skipper Bharat Chetri.

But India were undeterred as Birendra Lakra sent in a cross from the right that was picked up by Shivendra Singh in the semi-circle who kept his cool to round off New Zealand keeper Kyle Pontifex before slotting into an empty goal to put India on level terms in the sixth minute.

New Zealand forced three penalty corners in the 16th, 18th and 19th minutes but were prevented from scoring by a strong Indian defence as well as superb keeping by Sreejesh who saved in quick succession from Child and Nick Wilson off the third penalty corner.

As the clock was ticking away, India started dictating play as the likes of Sardar Singh and Birendra started spraying passes to the striker. But they could not turn the possession into goals.

It was, however, New Zealand who scored as Andy Hayward scored off a penalty corner in the 34th minute to give them a 2-1 lead going into halftime.

India were awarded two penalty corners in the 40th and 45th minutes, when ace penalty corner hitter Sandeep Singh was on the bench, and V. Ragunath was unable to find the back of the net.

India survived a penalty corner in the 55th minute as Andy Hayward’s attempt bounced off the post. But they soon found themselves 3-1 down as Nick Wilson’s deft deflection off a pass from Shea Mcaleese slipped through the pads of Sreejesh in the 59th minute.

Things got worse for India as two minutes later Stephen Jenness was given all the time in the world to pick his spot and give New Zealand a 4-1 lead. And a goal by Matt L’hullier in the 65th minute made it a nightmare opening match for India.

Meanwhile, last year’s losing finalist Pakistan defeated Argentina 4-2 in their opening match. Pakistan almost squandered a 2-0 lead before scoring the winner five minutes from time to take all three points.

It was, however, a scrappy performance from both teams as they tried to get accustomed to the blue pitch, similar to the surface in Olympics in London this July.

It was a rather slow start to the match as both the teams opted to hold on to the ball instead of throwing numbers forward.

The first real opening fell to Pakistan as Shabbir Ahmad Khan was not picked up by defenders in the semi circle and his snap shot was well kept out by Argentina’s custodian Juan Manuel Vivaldi.

Pakistan were awarded a penalty corner in the 22nd minute and although the ever reliable Sohail Abbas was on the pitch, a poor stop foiled any decent attempt on goal.

Argentina too failed to take advantage of a penalty corner in the 29th minute when the attempt by Pedro Ibarra deflected off the stick of another Argentine player and went wide.

But Pakistan were not to be denied as two minutes before halftime Muhammad Irfan was put through by Shafqat Rasool and his shot sailed into goal past a rooted Vivaldi.

Argentina had an opportunity to draw level in the 46th minute when Irfan was adjudged to have fouled Santiago Montelli. But it was muffed as they failed to stop cleanly.

A penalty corner to Pakistan in the 46th minute dealt a double blow for the South American side. Ibarra was yellow carded for breaking the penalty corner defence and Sohail Abbas then stepped up to convert the penalty corner, giving Pakistan a 2-0 lead.

Argentina reduced the deficit in the 53rd minute as Gonzalo Peillat scored off a penalty corner with Ibarra still on the sidelines.

In the 62nd minute it was all square when Mathias Parades sneaked up behind the defence to slot the ball home after a through ball by Mathias Villa.

Pakistan were stunned and upped the ante. They were duly rewarded as Haseem Khan deflected a shot by Irfan from the right in the 65th minute to put Pakistan 3-2 ahead.

Muhammad Waqas completed the scoring, deflecting in a shot on the left by Shabbir Ahmad Khan to give Pakistan a 4-2 win.

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