Commonwealth Games: Black Sticks lose semi to India

By Kris Shannon in Glasgow

New Zealand's Simon Child, left, fights for the ball during the men's hockey semifinal between New Zealand and India. Photo / Greg Bowker
New Zealand's Simon Child, left, fights for the ball during the men's hockey semifinal between New Zealand and India. Photo / Greg Bowker

NEW ZEALAND 2
INDIA 3

Both Black Sticks campaigns will end in the bronze-medal match after the men's side followed the women in falling from contention at the semifinal stage.

The double-defeat marked a disappointing campaign for hockey at these Commonwealth Games, with both sides taking grand ambitions to Glasgow.

Gold medal play-offs against Australia were the aim, and it appeared a realistic target with the two teams topping their pools to avoid the old foe in the final four.

But, after the women lost a shootout to England yesterday, the men blew a two-goal lead against India overnight (NZT) to bow out of the tournament on a bad note.

Simon Childs gave New Zealand a perfect start at the Glasgow National Hockey Centre, opening the scoring inside the first two minutes, before Nick Haig's success from a penalty corner saw the Black Sticks in control.

But a penalty stroke before the break pulled India back into the match and two quick goals after the break doomed the Kiwis to defeat.

While the first arrived in unfortunate circumstances, the Black Sticks' defence will feel they let themselves down on both the equaliser and the winner. There was a lack of imagination in attack after falling behind, creating few clear opportunities on a rainy and grey Glasgow afternoon.

The Black Sticks' prospects looked much brighter during a scrappy first spell, though the danger of a one-goal lead hung heavily over halftime.

It could have been more comfortable, with Devon Manchester rarely troubled in goal, as the majority of the opposition attacks broke down in the final third. But two chirps of the referee's whistle saw the Kiwi defence breached and their two-goal buffer reduced.

The first saw Alex Shaw given a yellow card for obstruction and a penalty corner awarded to the Indians. And the second saw a stroke given after Dean Couzins suffered the cruel double blow of copping a drag flick to the chest and costing his team a goal.

New Zealand had been rather deserving of their healthy advantage. The game was barely two minutes old when Childs put his side in front, finishing astutely at the back post after the ball was played across goal.

And the lead was doubled when, after Andy Hayward's penalty corner was blocked by the keeper, India failed to keep out the Black Sticks' second opportunity from the set piece.

The goal was a lesson in determination from Haig, seeing his initial effort blocked by a defender by firing in the rebound, putting New Zealand in charge.

But captain Rupinder Singh's stroke changed the complexion of the match right on halftime, and Ramandeep Singh's clever reverse-stick deflection turned it on its head shortly after the break.

Before long India had seized the lead and New Zealand had no one to blame but themselves.

India's raids were becoming more penetrating and they got behind the Black Sticks once too often, with Akashdeep Singh allowed to smash home the winner after the defence failed to clear the initial cross.

- NZ Herald

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