Converting penalty corners can make all the difference in a tight hockey test match and so it was in Bangalore overnight, where India defeated the Vantage Black Sticks Men 4-2 to take a one-nil lead in the best of three series.
Indian PC specialist Rupinder Singh fired the home team ahead after only 2 minutes to immediately swing the advantage to India. He would hurt the Black Sticks again later in the match with his second penalty corner goal in the 34th minute.
The Black Sticks responded and played solid hockey keeping the match competitive but lacked the finishing power from their set pieces, to take advantage of the pressure applied to the Indian defence.
Stephen Jenness grabbed one back for the Kiwis after 26 minutes, taking the game into half time with the Black Sticks 1-2 down but with plenty to play for in the second half.
The third quarter had a sense of deja vu about it with Rupinder Singh scoring from a penalty corner four minutes after the restart and a few minutes later Harmanpreet Singh scored from another Indian penalty corner, and India were out to a 4-1 lead.
The Black Sticks persevered against the home side and were rewarded with a late Jenness field goal (his second pair in the last two games) in the 55th minute to keep the score closer.
Head coach Darren Smith rued the lost opportunities in front of goal, “For large parts of this match we controlled the tempo and possession but the PC battle cost us any chance of a win. They were clinical scoring 3 from 5 and we looked threatening but couldn’t convert any from 5.
“Malachi Buschl had a bright start to his career holding the ball well, controlling the Indian midfield and showing real poise, which has always been a strength of his make up. Saturday will be a big test as we close in on what has been a challenging tour for the team”.
“We have experienced 3 completely different locations and the variance that comes with this but it will help us grow with Bhubaneswar World Cup in mind. We look forward to Saturday!”
The Vantage Black Sticks play India in the second game of the three match series on Saturday night at 10:30pm NZ time.
VANTAGE BLACK STICKS: 2 (Stephen Jenness 26′ and 55′)
INDIA: 4 (Rupinder Singh 2′ and 34′, Mandeep Singh 15′, Harmanpreet Singh 38′)
Half Time: IND 2-1