Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Hockey: Black Sticks slump with scarce skills

Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

New Zealand 0 South Korea 2

It's a series more about development and learning than scorelines but this was a disappointing result.

In the unfamiliar surrounds of Pukekohe, more known for potatoes and petrolheads than international hockey, the Black Sticks slumped to a 2-0 loss against an impressive Korean side.

The previous two matches were drawn but New Zealand was a step behind for most of this. The visitors broke the game open with two goals midway through the second half and never looked like surrendering their initiative.

Indeed, the margin could have been greater but Korea spurned several other good opportunities while both Black Sticks' goalkeepers (Devon Manchester and Hamish McGregor shared a half each) made some impressive saves.

"We didn't hit the standards that we would like to this far into the series," admitted Black Sticks captain Dean Couzins. "Our basic skills let us down and that put pressure on us. We scrambled and defended reasonably well but you need to get outcomes when you get the ball into the circle and we couldn't do that."

Andy Hayward couldn't convert their only penalty corner opportunity late in the match and Stephen Jenness had two other half-chances. They toiled hard but the New Zealand team missed the skills and attacking instinct of players like Simon Child and Nick Wilson, both playing in Holland.

Korea's new German coach Paul Lissek has had an obvious impact. Always a pacey and physical team, he has added a level of tactical acumen and organisation that wasn't always evident in the past. They pressed the Black Sticks all over the field and were composed and fluent in possession, especially when working out of tight situations.

After a scoreless first half, Jenness blew a good chance, dribbling the ball on to his foot when in the clear towards goal. The visitors took the lead in the 50th minute, with Nam Hyun Woo cleanly converting a penalty corner. Korea doubled their advantage in the 53rd minute, livewire striker Hwang Tai nipping in at the near post.

The two teams meet at 3pm today at the same venue with the Black Sticks needing a victory to keep their hopes of a series win alive.

"We are prepared to learn and keep improving," says Couzins.

"We need to keep focussing on ourselves, how we build up, our attacking connections and tightening things up."

• New Zealand 0 Korea 2 (Nam Yong Lee, Hwang Tai). Halftime: 0-0.

- Herald on Sunday

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