Black Sticks men bounce back, defeat India

STRONG SHOWING: Blair Hopping in action for the Black Sticks at the London Olympics.
STRONG SHOWING: Blair Hopping in action for the Black Sticks at the London Olympics.

The men's Black Sticks have scored a much-needed 3-1 win over India.

Goals from Andy Hayward, Phil Burrows and Nick Wilson secured the men's hockey team's first victory of the 2012 Olympic Games - and critical points after a disappointing 2-0 opening loss to Korea

But the match could hardly have gotten off to a worse start for Shane McLeod's side.

Conceding a penalty corner in the first minute, Sandeep Singh swept a powerful drag flick into the top right corner of Kyle Pontifex's net.

The Black Sticks forced their own penalty corner 90 seconds later, which saw Simon Child's close-range deflection ping off the post to safety, but it was India who continued to look more threatening in the opening exchanges.

In the 13th minute the Kiwis found some crucial momentum when Hayward found the net from a penalty corner.

The goal jolted the Black Sticks into life - so much so that over the next 18 minutes they'd go 3-1 up.

Phil Burrows buried a penalty stroke in the 26th minute after an Indian body inadvertently blocked a shot on the goal line, and five minutes later, Nick Wilson doubled the lead from a Shea McAleese cross.

At halftime, the Black Sticks were in control of a scoreboard which was perhaps slightly unjust on India. But by the end of the second 35 minutes, New Zealand had proven good value for the win.

An appalling piece of behaviour by Sardar Singh soon after the restart saw him deservedly yellow-carded.

When the hook of his stick became entwined with that of Kiwi captain Dean Couzins, Singh broke loose and intentionally flicked his stick out at Couzins, striking him in the head.

Discipline would prove to be something of problem for the Indians in this encounter, with Manpreet Singh also serving a seven-minute sin-binning.

New Zealand used their numerical advantage to slow the pace of the game significantly, and while their play didn't become negative, tactics turned to strangling the Indians out of the match with plenty of cross-flank passing.

Chances from open play became scarce with a raft of penalty corners the best either could produce.

With four minutes to play Pontifex's post was rattled cueing the Kiwis to simply play a possession game and the clock was soon run down.

The next game for the New Zealand men's team is against the world's third best team, the Netherlands, on Friday at 9.45pm (NZT).

Fairfax Media