Rotterdam: India paid the price of poor defending as they conceded a goal four minutes from time to play out a 3-3 draw in a thrilling match in their last pool fixture of the FIH World League Round 3 match here Monday. India, who dominated the match throughout, fought back in a remarkable fashion from a goal down in the first half and took the lead twice only to be denied a win in their last Pool B match by poor defending.
India scored through Mandeep Singh (46th), V R Raghunath (47th) and Kothajit Singh (53rd) while Marcus Child (6th), Stephen Jenness (51st) and Blair Hilton (66th) found the target for New Zealand who are the higher-ranked side at number sixth. It was, however, the 11th ranked Indians who had far more possession, more penetration at the opposition striking circle and more shots at target in the fast-paced and entertaining match though they were let down by poor defence in the end.
The Indian defence manned by Raghunath, Rupinderpal Singh and Sandeep Singh were found wanting in New Zealand counter attacks as the Balck Sticks scored twice in such fashion.
With today's draw, their second in the tournament after their 4-4 result against Ireland in the campaign opener, India ended their pool engagements with two points from three matches.
The Sardar Singh-led side now face the prospect of playing Pool A winners Belgium or runners-up Australia in the knock-out phase which begins on Wednesday.
All the eight teams -- four each in the two pools -- will still play in the quarterfinal phase as the preliminary matches are only meant to decide who plays whom in the knock-out stage. The last-place team of one pool plays the topper of the other pool and so on. India put early pressure with some fine moves from both the flanks and earned a penalty corner as early as the third minute but failed to convert it as Rupinderpal Singh's drag-flick was palmed away by New Zealand goalkeeper Devon Manchester.
It was, however, New Zealand who took the lead in the sixth minute with Marcus Child making a fine deflection of a sharp hit by Phil Burrows. New Zealand got their first penalty corner in the 19th minute and Mandeep Singh made a fine save on the goal-line after goalkeeper Sreejesh was beaten. India pressed for the equaliser in frantic pace and they dominated the first session from then on but still could not get a clear chance though they had far more penetration inside the opposition striking circle.
Shivendra Singh, Manpreet Singh, Nithin Thimmaiah and S V Sunil worked in tandem in search of the equaliser but New Zealand defence withstood the pressure to go into the breather 1-0 ahead. India came out with all guns blazing after resumption and the incessant pressure paid off as they got the eqauliser in the 47th minute through Mandeep Singh. The spadework for the equaliser came from hard-working and livewire S V Sunil who got the better of Alex Shaw on the right flank and essayed a high cross past the New Zealand goalkeeper for promising youngster Mandeep to connect it with a diving shot.
Interestingly, India got the equaliser when they were one man down as Dharamvir Singh was out for two minute after getting a yellow card. The equaliser boosted their confidence and India went ahead in the next minute with Raghunath scoring from the their second penalty corner. Sardar Singh made the penalty corner push and Sandeep Singh sold a dummy for Raghunath to sound the New Zealand board with a fine low drag flick.
New Zealand responded fast as they restored parity in the 51st minute from a counter attack. Hugo Inglis made a fine run from the centre, got the better of an Indian defender and sent a high pass for Stephen Jenness to slam it home. Not to be taken aback by the equaliser, the Indians continued with the same vigour and won the lead again with Kothajit Singh finding the target after a goal-mouth melee in the 53rd minute.
Sreejesh kept the Indian lead intact with a brilliant effort as he saved a penalty stroke awarded to New Zealand after Sandeep Singh had pushed an opponent from behind inside the striking circle. But, New Zealand captain Dean Couzins' low shot was saved by Sreejash with his outstretched right leg. India, however, paid the price of poor defending as they conceded the lead with four minutes remaining as Blair Hilton fired a powerful reverse flick past Sreejesh to deny the Sardar Singh-led side a victory.
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