India beat New Zealand 3-2 in Punjab Gold Cup

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Having booked a place in final already, India beat New Zealand 3-2 in the last league match of four-nation Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament on Saturday.

Updated: February 07, 2009 16:25 IST
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With the outcome of the previous match assuring India a place in the final, the relaxed hosts beat New Zealand 3-2 in the last league match of four-nation Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament here on Saturday.

Earlier today Holland thrashed Germany 7-1, which paved the pay for India to sneak into the final.

India, who finished at number two with 11 points from six matches, will now take on Holland in the final of the tournament on Monday.

India took the early lead when Rajpal Singh, who later adjudged Man-of-the-Match, pumped in the first goal in sixth minute.

Mid-fielder Prabodh Tirkey took a hit near the striking circle, which got deflected off Kiwi goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex before Rajpal Singh netted the ball.

The Black Sticks equalised the score in 40th minute as Nicholas Wilson sounded the board.

But Rajpal struck his second goal in 55th minute to help India surge ahead again as he shook off the opponent custodian with a powerful hit after receiving a pass near the second post.

New Zealand again levelled the score in 62nd minute as Richard Petherick converted a penalty corner creditably.

Indians fired their third goal in 67th minute when Ignace Tirkey finished off a good attack from the left flank.

The Black Sticks who finished at the bottom of the points tally without winning a single match, launched some counter attacks, although without much success.

India had made a few changes in the squad as mid-fielder Vikram Pillai and goalkeeper Baljit Singh were replaced by Raghunath and Adrian D' Souza (goalkeeper).

India's hockey coach Harendra Singh today expressed happiness after the team reached the final of the tournament and promised to give all out effort in Monday's final against Holland.

"I don't think they will get any edge. Our two previous games against them have been a closely fought contest. On Monday, we will try and win the finals.

"We are expecting a good match on Monday and we will put in our best," Harendra said at a post-match press conference. The coach, however, said that the team have to work on the "gray area" of conceding too many penalty corners to the opponents.

"We have to work on this. We also need to improve more in deep defence, but at the same time I am happy that we are scoring more field goals, which is a healthy sign. I think that is the positive side we should look at," he said.

Indian skipper Sandeep Singh also expressed happiness that the team was improving with each passing day.

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