Rockingham, Australia: Comeback Kid S V Sunil and new sensation Yuvraj Walmiki combined well to help India men's hockey team overcome a fighting New Zealand 5-4 in the second international friendly here on Tuesday.
India took a three-goal lead within the first 22 minutes of play. But because of their poor defence they allowed the Kiwis to stage come back and equalise early in the second half here at Hellswood Sports Complex in Mundrah.
Yuvraj's stunner off the feed of Sunil in the 60th minute once again gave India a lead and then Tushar Khandkar consolidated it three minutes later. And though New Zealand managed to score another goal towards the end of the match, but they fell short by a goal.
Sunil scored the first Indian goal in the very first minute of the match before setting up Yuvraj Walmiki to hit another one within two minutes.
V Raghunath then converted India's second penalty corner in the 22nd minute to give what seemed an assailable lead, 3-0.
The combination of Sunil and Yuvraj once again came alive after New Zealand cancelled out India's three-goal lead in the second half.
The Kiwis caught the Indian defence unawares, scoring three goals in the space of ten minutes midway through the second half.
Blair Hilton scored a brace (49th and 59th min), while Shay Neal stole one off Indian goalie PR Sreejesh in the 53rd minute. Stephen Jennes, at the end, scored another goal for New Zealand in the 65th minute.
New Zealand waged a grim battle to salvage a befitting draw and even obtained two penalty corners but could not make much headway.
Indian coach Michael Nobbs appeared a relieved man after the match. "It is good result for a training match. We again did some silly mistakes and conceded avoidable goals. Against much stronger teams like Australia, we would have been punished but we got away with the Kiwis. I work on attacking hockey. From that angle I am happy the way we scored. Yes, we have to work in some areas to avoid conceding goals," Nobbs said.
India will now go to Perth to play in the Lanco International Super Series, which starts on Thursday.