New Zealand eked out a hard-fought 7-6 win over England in the penalty shoot-out after both the teams finished at 3-3 in regulation time, to earn a place in the summit clash of the Hero Hockey World League Final at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here on Friday.
Ranked seventh in the world, New Zealand came into the match with an aim to avenge their 1-5 drubbing in the pool stages at the hands of England. Executing their plans well, they fought hard to secure a win over the fourth ranked team in the world.
Colin Batch's men kept their cool during the shoot-out to emerge victorious after New Zealand and England were tied at 1-1 at the half time and then 3-3 after final hooter.
Incidentally, it was New Zealand's second win in the shoot-outs, having defeated Argentina in the quarterfinals.
The Black Sticks certainly were the sharper of the two teams in the opening exchanges. They won four penalty corners in quick succession but George Pinner, in the England goal, made some brilliant saves to keep the ball away from the back of the net.
The England defence was breached finally by Marcus Child (12th minute), who fired home a hard shot from wide of the goal. New Zealand were unlucky not to double the lead when an unmarked Simon Child hit the side net.
England bounced back through Harry Martin (23th), who dived full-length to sent home from Mark Gleghorne's cross as both the teams went into the breather locked at one-goal apiece.
The second half witnessed a lot of end-to-end action, with both teams playing expansive hockey, mainly relying on strong defence and quick counter attacks.
It was England who took the lead for the first time in the match when Gleghorne (49th) fired home from the right side of the circle.
New Zealand, however, refused to give up and continued with their attacking style of play, stretching the English defence.
The Black Sticks were rewarded with two goals in quick succession, firstly a penalty corner conversion from Stephen Jenness (61st) and then a field goal from Hugo Inglis (62nd).
But Ashley Jackson (64th) scored the equaliser for England from a penalty stroke after Barry Middleton was fouled inside the circle to take the game into shoot-out.
In the shoot-out, the sides remained level after the first five attempts, and it all came down to sudden death.
Both sides remained neck-and-neck until Harry Martin missed for England, while Phil Burrows became the Black Sticks' hero.