The opening game of hockey at the Tokyo Olympics saw the Indian men’s hockey team face off with New Zealand in an enthralling game. While the Kiwis fought hard for a win, it were the Men in Blue who prevailed over the majority of the game before rightfully winning their opening encounter. They will now face Australia in their second game of the campaign on Sunday.
The first quarter was an action-packed affair with New Zealand drawing first blood by converting their first penalty corner. India were quick to react equalising with Rupinder Pal Singh‘s penalty stroke in the 10th minute. India’s defense was impressive led by Virendra Lakra and Amit Rohidas. On his Olympic debut, Mandeep Singh has been on song creating chances in the opposition D area.
A smart video referral from India saw the Men in Blue set up the only goal of the second quarter. Earning a penalty corner from a Kiwi back stick, India showcased a stunning variation to breach a rather solid Kiwi defense. Indian vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh scored the penalty corner to get his side in the lead.
Harmanpreet’s double strikes sets up win for Indian men’s hockey team
The third quarter bore testament to gritty fightback from the Kiwis following Harmanpreet’s second strike. New Zealand’s relentless efforts finally paid off as they closed off the quarter with a fine goal from Stephen Jenness in the 43rd minute to set up an enthralling final quarter. India continued their hunt for penalty corners with smart video referrals, which paid dividends.
In the end, the defensive line of the Indian team proves too tough to breach for the black sticks. The Kiwis were in a race against time with PR Sreejesh standing tall. The veteran goalkeeper made two crucial saves in the dying minutes of the game to hand India their first win of the campaign.
Sreejesh was undoubtedly the hero of the game for holding the black sticks at bay for the better part of the game. New Zealand was awarded seven penalty corners but were only able to convert one thanks to a vigilant Sreejesh and an impressive defensive line. India on the other hand converted two of their five penalty corners, both of which were hammered home by Harmanpreet at 26 minutes and 33 minutes respectively.
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