Hockey: Black Sticks reach semis after shoot-out

By David Leggat

Blair Hilton celebrates after getting a goal during the penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final against Argentina. Photo / Frank Uijlenbroek
Blair Hilton celebrates after getting a goal during the penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final against Argentina. Photo / Frank Uijlenbroek

New Zealand are through to the semifinals of the world hockey league after winning a penalty shootout thriller against Argentina in New Delhi today.

After the scores were locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time, the Black Sticks won the shootout 4-3.

Both teams scored twice in the first five shoot out attempts.

When Lucas Vila fired wide with Argentina's second attempt in sudden death, Wellington attacker Blair Hilton, who had already scored in the shootout, clinched the win, beating keeper Joaquin Berthold with a fine reverse stick shot from a wide angle.

Seventh-ranked New Zealand will play No 4 side England in their semifinal early on Saturday, after they eased past Belgium 1-0.

''I'm pretty stoked," said Hilton.

''We left it a little bit late but all the boys are pretty excited about making the top four."

The teams met in pool play, England winning 5-1, although New Zealand will feel confident of a far better showing this time around.

The Black Sticks were 1-0 up at halftime through a shot from man of the match Kane Russell at their only successful penalty corner out of five attempts.

They'd had the better of the opening spell and should have had another goal when captain Dean Couzins had a penalty stroke hit the post.

Argentina lifted their game in the second spell and equalised after a scramble in the New Zealand circle through Matias Paredes 11 minutes from the end.

Hilton and midfielder Steve Edwards scored in the first stage of the shootout and Hugo Inglis put New Zealand ahead early in the sudden death phase.

When Vila missed the next shot, Hilton became the hero at the last gasp.

''I'd say I was reasonably confident, but it's not something you get to do too often," Hilton said of the shootout.

''I just tried to black everything out and tried to think of it as going one-on-one with the keeper in practice."

And Hilton admitted the shot for the win was not his first choice in the moment.

''The keeper was coming out on a certain angle, almost trying to smother you," Hilton said.

''I had that in my head but he got a good jump and almost pushed me off the ball.
''My original plan didn't work so I figured I'd move the ball as far away from him s I could and have a shot. Thankfully it went in."

Goalkeeper Devon Manchester had a fine game, especially during the shootout. Argentina had impressed early in the tournament and there were tears at the end, a contrast to the jubilant scenes in the New Zealand camp.

World No 1 Germany were beaten 2-1 by No 3-ranked Netherlands and Australia had to come from 2-0 down before thumping India 7-2. They meet the Dutch in the other semifinal.

- NZ Herald

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