Rupinder Pal Singh converted two penalty corners as India outclassed New Zealand 4-0 to clinch a bronze medal in the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, in Ipoh, Malaysia on Saturday.
Rupinder Pal sent identical ground drag-flicks into the corner past New Zealand goalkeeper Richard Joyce’s outstretched right hand in the 17th and 27th minutes.
SV Sunil then scored his first goal of the tournament in the 48th minute as he capitalised on a cross from Mandeep Singh into the goalmouth, while Talwinder Singh rounded off India’s scoring in the last minute.
Earlier, Malaysia defeated Japan 3-1 in the playoff to decide the fifth place in the tournament standings.
Having failed to earn a place in the final after a listless show in the last preliminary league encounter against Malaysia on Friday, India gave an improved display to clinch the bronze medal – a shade below their silver medal behind Australia in the tournament last year.
Combining well, the Indian strikers showed purpose when they moved into the rival territory, but India missed three sitters in the first quarter that ended goalless.
India started with two successive penalty corners in the second minute of play, but the rushers denied Harmanpreet Singh a good look at the goal.
In the next minute, a soft error by the Black Sticks defenders saw Mandeep gain possession of the ball and move into the scoring area, but his reverse drive from the top of the circle was deflected by the goalkeeper.
Captain Manpreet Singh’s brilliant flair in the fifth minute saw him break into the circle down the right flank and feed a cross to Mandeep, who failed to deflect the ball toward the goal.
India’s best chance in the first quarter came in the 12th minute when Manpreet sent a cross parallel to the goalline for Mandeep, stationed near the far post, but Mandeep erred in his effort to tap the ball in.
Rupinder opened the scoring on India’s third penalty corner, his stinging grounder leaving the defenders gasping. In the 27th minute, Mandeep had a good run on the left flank.
After charging into the circle, his cross found no takers, but an obstruction on Mandeep earned India a penalty corner. Rupinder’s shot on the fourth penalty corner struck a defender’s foot and another penalty corner was awarded, which he duly converted with a fine low shot.
After failing to feature in goal-scoring action in the entire tournament, Sunil finally made an entry on the score- sheet by deflecting in Mandeep’s cross from right in the 48th minute.
Talwinder also got among the goal scorers for the first time in the last minute of play after picking a pass from Manpreet in the circle. Talwinder created some space for himself and sent a reverse shot into the boards.
(All images sourced from Twitter| Hockey India)