The New Zealand men’s hockey team were disappointed to open their Olympic bid with a narrow 3-2 defeat at the hands of India today.
Things went well for captain Blair Tarrant and his team early on and in the sixth minute Kane Russell converted from a penalty corner to put the New Zealanders ahead 1-0. But over the next 23 minutes, India scored three times, first by Rupinder Singh following a penalty stroke, and then twice by India captain Harmanpreet Singh.
Stephen Jenness gave the New Zealanders hope with a goal in the 43rd minute, but that’s how the score remained.
New Zealand attacked strongly in the closing stages and it required two outstanding saves by India goalie Sreejesh Parattu to prevent the scores being levelled.
New Zealand must be considered unlucky not to have grabbed at least a draw. They had less than impressive warm-up form before this tournament, but when it counted today they strung their attacks together much better, despite the strength-sapping heat.
Overall New Zealand manufactured 14 shots at goal, three more than India. They earned 10 penalty strokes to India’s 5 and shaded the Indians for possession.
Afterwards Tarrant was understandably disappointed with the result. “We lost the battle of the penalty corners, and that was always going to be a crucial area,” he said.
“We finished strongly, but we need to begin better and put more scoreboard pressure on the opposition.”
The game was marred by several very long stoppages near the end due mainly to Indian referrals and Tarrant felt that despite the heat, his players were finishing well and that the stoppages worked against his team.
New Zealand’s next match is against Spain tomorrow evening.Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Rugby - Sevens