Gold Coast (Australia), 13 April 2018: A dominant performance by New Zealand ensured they made the Final of the XXI Commonwealth Games as they beat India 3-2 in the Semi Final on Friday. It was Hugo Inglis (7’), Stephen Jenness (13’) and Marcus Child (40’) who scored in New Zealand’s winning performance while Harmanpreet Singh (30’, 56’) scored both goals for India.
It was a match lost in the first quarter when India conceded two crucial goals that mounted pressure early on and put them on the back foot.
Though they began with an intent to attack, as Gurjant Singh showed good dribbling skills to set up Mandeep Singh’s shot on goal within two minutes of the start, Mandeep was way off the mark. India even won a PC in the third minute but Harmanpreet Singh’s drag-flick went straight to the New Zealand goalkeeper. Gurjant, who picked up the rebound, too couldn’t muster getting it past the goalkeeper. New Zealand, on the other hand, rallied on fierce counter attacks and tested India’s defence which didn’t have the experience of Rupinder Pal Singh who sat out of the match with a niggle in his hamstring.
First it was Hugo Inglis who intercepted Indian defender Harmanpreet Singh to swiftly drive into the striking circle and took a successful backhand shot past Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh. New Zealand adapting to full-press early on resulted in the second goal of the match when a miss trap by Manpreet Singh near top of the defending circle saw Jared Panchia assist Stephen Jenness who tapped the ball into the post.
New Zealand rode on a good start, with better ball possession and pace in their attack. New Zealand won their first PC of the match in the 22nd minute but Cory Bennett’s drag-flick was well-saved by Sreejesh. India’s moment of reckoning came in the 29th minute when Sumit intercepted a New Zealand defender to drive into the right flank. A deliberate foul by New Zealand skipper Arun Panchia resulted in India winning their second PC of the match. Though Varun Kumar’s drag-flick didn’t make the post, a deliberate obstruction saw India being awarded a penalty stroke which was successfully converted by Harmanpreet Singh.
India began the third quarter with a PC in the 33rd minute, but again could not make much of it with Harmanpreet’s drag-flick being saved by the first rusher. The following minutes saw Chinglensana Singh and Gurjant Singh create opportunities to score but were off the mark. New Zealand meanwhile kept up their momentum, not letting go of scoring opportunities, when they won two back-to-back PCs in the 39th minute. Though their No.1 drag-flicker Kane Russell’s effort was blocked, Marcus Child picked up a good rebound to put it past Sreejesh earning New Zealand a crucial 3-1 lead. It didn’t help India’s cause when they missed two more opportunities to score through PCs in the 41st and 43rd minutes.
Under pressure to make their third consecutive Commonwealth Games Final, India fumbled on opportunities to score. After as many as four PCs, Harmanpreet Singh managed to convert with powerful flick to the right top corner in the 55th minute. Desperate for an equalizer, India pulled out their goalkeeper to add an extra man in their attack. It didn’t help India’s cause with their forward Akashdeep Singh being awarded a yellow card in the 57th minute. With no conversion from eight shots on goals earlier in the match had already dented India’s hopes. With time ticking away, the team could not pull off a finish similar to the one against England when they scored two goals in the final two minutes of the match, thus settling for a 2-3 loss.