IPOH: India’s chances of advancing to the final suffered a blow after they went down 1-2 to defending champions New Zealand in their penultimate round-robin league match of the 25th Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Wednesday.
Goals from Ken Russell (28th minute) and Nick Wilson (41st) clinched victory for defending champions New Zealand, who managed to weather the hot and humid conditions better than the Indians, whose only goal came from Mandeep Singh in the 36th minute.
Wilson’s match-winner resulted from a defensive error committed by the Indians as they failed to clear the ball properly in their own striking circle.
New Zealand benefitted from the loose ball in the Indian circle in the 41st minute, when a reverse shot from the goal-line was padded by the Indian goalkeeper and deflected to the middle. Defender Harmanpreet failed to connect in his reflex attempt to push the ball out and Wilson had the easiest task of shooting into the goal for what turned out to be the match-winner for the Black Sticks.
An Indian victory on Wednesday would have put them in the final, while a draw would have still kept them ahead of New Zealand. But the Black Sticks have now moved ahead into the second spot.
India can still ensure a place in the final against Australia if they defeat hosts Malaysia in the last round-robin league match on Friday, while New Zealand will be anxiously waiting to see if they play for the gold medal or the bronze.
Australia are still on top of the standings with 12 points from four successive wins, followed by New Zealand on 11 points from six matches. India have nine points from five matches and their fate will rest on the show against Malaysia on Friday.