Kane Russell double leads Black Sticks to victory

Kane Russell scored twice for the Black Sticks. Photosport
Kane Russell scored twice for the Black Sticks. Photosport

A Kane Russell double has helped the Black Sticks Men secure a 3-2 win over Japan at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

After surrendering an early goal, New Zealand powered back with three unanswered strikes either side of halftime to take control of the match.

Japan mounted relentless pressure in the fourth quarter and despite allowing another goal, the Black Sticks defence held firm to ensure their first win so far at the tournament.

Head coach Darren Smith said it was pleasing to come away with three crucial points from the result.

"I thought we played well for most of the game, especially in the second half when we were under immense pressure our defence really stood up," he said.

"We tackled well and protected the centre of the field which saw us get the upper hand.

To see such a young group of players putting in a performance like that is excellent.

"We'll go away now and focus on putting in another big effort against Malaysia who we know are a tough team, and they will be playing in front of a packed and noisy home crowd so we need to be on our game."

Japan gained the early upper hand creating several penalty corner opportunities, with Shota Yamada converting through a drag flick in the ninth minute.

The Kiwis lifted following the goal and began to generate some genuine chances through quick hands and feet in the circle.

New Zealand drew level in the 18th minute after defender Kane Russell ripped a hard flick low and inside the left post from a penalty corner.

The Black Sticks grabbed their first lead of the game when a stroke was awarded for a push in the back on Mac Wilcox, Russell making no mistake of the flick.

The score then pushed out to 3-1 in favour of the Black Sticks in the 35th minute thanks to a skilful finish from Sam Lane who received a pass in the circle and flicked past the keeper on his reverse stick.

Japan pulled a goal back 10 minutes from fulltime with Yamada's second drag flick of the match, but weren't able to find an equaliser in the face on strong Kiwi defence.

The Vantage Black Sticks go up against hosts Malaysia in their next match at 12:30am Thursday morning (NZT).

- NZ Herald

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