Harmanpreet’s brace, Sreejesh’s heroics help India beat New Zealand 3-2 in opener

TOKYO: Harmanpreet Singh scored a brace and veteran goalkeeper P R Sreejesh stood like a wall in the closing minutes as the Indian men’s hockey team overcame a late surge from New Zealand to eke out a close 3-2 win in its opening Olympic Games match here on Saturday.
Harmanpreet (26th and 33rd minutes) scored a double for India, while Rupinder Pal Singh (10th) was the other goal-getter for the eight-time former champions, currently ranked fourth in the world, in the Pool A match at the Oi hockey stadium here.
For the eighth-ranked New Zealand, Kane Russell scored from a penalty corner in the sixth minute before Stephen Jenness (43rd minute) reduced the margin of defeat later in the match.
India will next play mighty Australia on Sunday.
The Indians were shocked in the sixth minute when Russell found the top right corner of the Indian goal past Sreejesh with a fierce flick.
Even though he didn’t score, striker Mandeep Singh was a live-wire for India upfront and earned a penalty corner for his side, which resulted in a penalty stroke from which Rupinder drew parity in the 10th minute.
New Zealand were not to be left behind as they gave the Indian defence a run for its money securing four consecutive penalty corners but wasted all.
From a counter-attack, Gurjant came close to handing India the lead but his effort was saved by New Zealand goalkeeper Leon Hayward.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Hayward again came to the scene when he kept away India skipper Manpreet Singh’s lob from a one-on-one situation.

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