Boom (Antwerp):New Zealand struck twice in a seven-minute spell late in the game to inflict a 2-0 defeat on India in the opening match of the Champions Challenge hockey tournament for men on Saturday.
Goals by Hayden Shaw (63rd) and David Kosoof (69th) handed the Kiwis three points as New Zealand hit back strongly towards close after seeing off early Indian challenge in a match that was mostly played in heavy rains.
India promised much early on when they pinned the Kiwis in their own half, but could not convert on the openings against a team that played a waiting game while leaving a bit more in the tank for a final push.
India's best moment were when they received two penalty corners on either side of break, but Sandeep Singh failed to convert those and with the forwards unable to break through a well organised Kiwi defence, the best India could hope for was a draw.
The first-half was rather difficult for both the teams following heavy showers just before start of the match.
Consequently, neither team could up the pace. The conditions did not particularly suit the Indians who thrive on speed.
The scrappy exchanges also did not make for scoring opportunities of which there were few and far between. The Kiwis, though, had the best of chances with Phillip Burrows and Casey Henwood taking cracks at the Indian goal.
While Burrows shot wide from the top of the circle, goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza deflected Henwood's attempt to keep the Indian hopes alive.
At the other end, the Indians had more of the ball initially as they applied pressure on the Kiwi defence that stood up well to repeatedly frustrate the rival forwards.
The Indians dominated the midfield for much of the half with tight marking and covering. As such, the Kiwis barely made a move until they resorted to hitting long to their lurking forwards.
Past the 12th minute, India received the only penalty corner of the half, but Sandeep was off the mark with his drag-flick.
It was only late in the first-half that the Kiwis came into the game with a few strong runs down the flank and using the long ball to launch swift counter-attacks. There was a period when the Indian defence did not appear confident, but fortunately for them, the mistakes were made outside the
danger area to avert any penalty corner.
The rains eased off in the final moments of the half, but with the pitch still soggy with water, both teams appeared content to play out the final minutes to take the breather on level terms.
The sun shone briefly at the start of the second-half before the rains returned with a vengeance as the conditions deteriorated. The bigger built and stronger Kiwi players gradually gained the upper hand with the Indians unable to come to terms with the heavy pitch.
The Kiwis stepped up the pace on resumption and came up with a few threatening moves. D'Souza was kept busy under the Indian bar as the Black Sticks forced three penalty corners in succession, all of which he blocked with aplomb.
But the Kiwis kept coming at the Indians and off their fourth penalty corner, man-mountain Hayden Shaw found the net with a powerful drag-flick. The penalty corner award came about after Sardar Singh brought down a Kiwi forward inside the 25-yard line.
South African umpire Deon Nel awarded a free-hit, but his Korean colleague, Hong Lee Kim intervened and changed it to a penalty corner off which Shaw struck.
Down by a goal, India threw caution to the winds and went on the attack while leaving the back open. The Kiwis made the best of the chance and a swift counter attack saw Kosoof slamming to the boards after a combined move with Burrows to
seal the issue.
India next take on England on Sunday while the Kiwis meet Japan.