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India start with a win

On the eve of their opening match against New Zealand, Indian coach Harendra Singh took as challenge Black Sticks captain Phillips Burrows' assertion that they had edge because of their victory in their previous encounter at the Azlan Shah 2008, reports Saurabh Duggal.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2009 23:34 IST
Saurabh Duggal

On the eve of their opening match against New Zealand, Indian coach Harendra Singh took as challenge Black Sticks captain Phillips Burrows' assertion that they had edge because of their victory in their previous encounter at the Azlan Shah 2008.

On Saturday, Harendra's boys didn't let him down as they blanked New Zealand 2-0 to start their campaign in the four-nation Punjab Gold Cup hockey tournament on a winning note.

Skipper Sandeep Singh put the hosts ahead by converting a penalty corner in the 22nd minute and forward Shivendra Singh sealed victory with three minutes remaining for the long hooter. In the second match of the day, Holland defeated World and Olympic champions Germany by an identical margin thanks to goals by L. Judge and Hertzberger.

Indian Coach Harendra was happy with the victory, though it came against a depleted Black Sticks side and the forwards were as usual profligate in the circle. "I am happy with the overall performance but I expected more goals," said Harendra. "Today we played attacking hockey but missed some chances. I want my forwards to be more accurate in coming matches," he said.

The match started on a sedate note as both teams struggled to get settled. Though the Black Sticks set the early pace and earned a penalty corner in the fifth minute, the Indian defence stood tall. The Indians slowly took control of the proceedings and earned their first penalty corner when a defender lifted the ball into Deepak Thakur's face off a Sandeep Singh hit from the right flank. Thakur was stretchered out due to a cut and the Indians failed to capitalise on the chance.

But they couldn't be denied and scored off their second penalty corner in the 22nd minute. Rajpal Singh sent in a measured push and Arjun Halappa placed it correctly for Sandeep to send a powerful flick home.

Black Sticks' player of Indian origin, Priyesh Bhana, coming in as a substitute in his debut match, created with their best chance when he took a shot at the Indian goal in the 26th match. But Indian custodian Baljit Singh stopped it easily.