Johor Bahru: Indian Under-21 hockey team got the better of New Zealand 2-1 to stay in the contention for a podium finish in the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia on Wednesday. (Agencies)
Malak Singh (28th and 37th min) scored both the goals for India, while the lone goal of New Zealand was hit by Kane Russel in the 6th minute.
After thrashing arch-rivals Pakistan 5-1 on Tuesday, India needed to garner full points against the Kiwis today and they did just that after managing to hang in there in a cliff hanger of a battle at Taman Daya stadium here.
With just a match to go against hosts Malaysia on Friday, India now have a chance of reaching the finals of the competition but it would depend on other results as well.
Today was no different as far as India was concerned. Like in the all other games, India conceded an early penalty corner goal to New Zealand.
Amit Rohidas charged the first penalty corner but the flick hit his leg and that led to a second one. And Russle scored off the second penalty corner in the 6th minute.
But the Indian colts did well to come back strongly as their midfield and forward line combined well to penetrate the circle a number of times.
New Zealand defence plank manned by sweeper back Dwayne Rowsell and fullbacks -- Dane Lett and Thomas Louden -- had to come out with extra effort to contain the charged up Indian forwards.
India, before the half time, got three penalty corners as a true measure of its aggression, while the Kiwis hardly could make any inroads into the Indian circle.
However, Sampath, Amit and Harpreet attempted the penalty corner without success. Though seven minutes before the hooter, shortly after M Gunasekar got injured and substituted,
Hawkish Malak Singh bounced on to a rebound to score the equalizer.
India created several chances to further consolidate the lead, but to no avail.
In the second half, Satbir gave a gentle pass to Haryana's Malak Singh, who did not miss the good opportunity and knelt low to tap the ball to make it 2-1.
This 37th minute goal led to intense play from both sides vand the Indian defense came under severe pressure, but Harpreet Singh and Rohidas rose to the occasion.
The action filled second half, however, did not show up anything on the board, but both teams came to scoring on many occasions.
Despite subdued by the fast Indian forwards, New Zealand managed to eke out three penalty corners on the trot between 65th to 68th minutes, but the shots and flicks went off the mark.
India, on their part, also wasted three penalty corners in the second session and spent a nightmarish last ten minutes to keep the lead intact.
"Our body positioning in the circle was not good, midfield have to get their acts together," said New Zealand coach Grant Edwards.
Johor Bahru: Indian Under-21 hockey team got the better of New Zealand 2-1 to stay in the contention for a podium finish in the Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia on Wednesday.