The New Zealand men's hockey team are on a treacherous collision course with a top-quality opponent in the quarterfinals of the Champions Trophy in Melbourne after a resurgent India outclassed the Black Sticks 4-2 tonight.
Encouraged by a stirring comeback against Olympic champions Germany in their opening match yesterday before succumbing 3-2, New Zealand regressed by contributing to India's potential resurrection as one of the sport's powerhouses at the State Sports Centre.
Gifted an own goal- the third recorded on day two of competition - New Zealand were unable to capitalise on their good fortune and trailed 3-1 at the break as the Indians dominated all facets.
A sweetly taken field goal by Akashdeep Singh atoned for the defensive lapse, Guwinder Singh Chandi then put the New Zealanders on the back foot when he netted through a goal mouth melee and India then twisted the knife when VR Raghunath was on target with a clinically taken penalty corner beat rookie goalkeeper Devon Manchester.
Nick Wilson hinted at a Kiwi comeback two minutes after the restart when his reverse stick shot narrowed the margin but despite dominating for large tracts for the second spell India -who finished dead last at London 2012 -- eventually made the game safe through Danish Mujtaba.
New Zealand is now likely to face nemesis Australia or Olympic silver medallists the Netherlands on Thursday in a cross over match to determine who advances to the semifinals, and which of the six-nations are condemned to lower-ranking play-offs.
It is an ominous prospect and one they will likely take on without Stephen Jenness after the striker suffered a suspected broken hand midway through the second half.
He was to have x-rays after the match but the initial prognosis was not positive according to team management.
India, the current world No.11 needed a wildcard to compete at the annual tournament for the first time since 2005 and initially justified their invite by shocking fourth-ranked England 3-1 yesterday.
Downing the sixth-ranked Black Sticks means they are assured of playing Pakistan or Belgium, the stragglers in pool B.
The Black Sticks wrap up pool play tomorrow against an English side buoyed by their 4-1 thrashing Germany today - their first win over the world leaders in 20 attempts at Champions Trophy level.
Manchester, one of three debutants in the squad, impressed despite the score line and was responsible for a string of excellent saves that prevented India celebrating an even bigger win.
In pool B matches today Pakistan beat Belgium 2-0 while Australia and the Netherlands drew 0-0.
- © Fairfax NZ News