Hockey: Black Sticks beat India

The Black Sticks have set-up a crucial match against Australia having defeated India 2-0 at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup last night in Ipoh, Malaysia.

With a win against India and six points in the bag, the Black Sticks will play Australia in a winner takes all match that could well decide the finalist. Last night's game was a must-win, with both teams on three points they needed the victory to stay in contention for a place in Sunday's final.

"It was another pleasing outcome, a really gutsy team performance. We are building the depth within this group and trying to improve with every game we play," says head coach Colin Batch.

"We had a couple of opportunities that we could have put away in the first half, but it was not to be. What was pleasing is we didn't have a lull at the start of the second half, we came back on hungry and scored two goals. The win now sets us up for a showdown against Australia tomorrow," says Batch.

It was a scoreless first half, the Black Sticks were hungry for the ball and untroubled in defence, but neither team created many opportunities.

New Zealand made it count in the second half when Andy Hayward clocked up his third goal of the series from a penalty corner drag flick which went low to the goalkeepers right in the 40th minute.

The Kiwis second goal came in the 53rd minute when the initial attempt by Hayward was blocked by Indian goalkeeper Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh, but new Black Stick Cory Bennett picked up the rebound, evaded an Indian defender and sent a reverse stick hit crashing in the goal for a 2-0 lead.

"We lost possession and there was quite a lot of turnover ball late in the second half, so we will review this and look at how it can be improved going forward," says Batch.

Goal keeper Hamish McGregor was noted as a standout player and the midfield trio - Arun Panchia, Marcus Child and Blair Hilton - continued to impress coaches.

Australia and Malaysia remain top of the table on eight points with Malaysia set to play India tomorrow. The Black Sticks are on six points followed by Korea and Pakistan on four and India on three.

New Zealand 2 (Andy Hayward, Cory Bennett) India 0. HT: 0-0

- APNZ

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