Rupinder Pal Singh converted two penalty corners as India comprehensively beat New Zealand 4-0 to win the bronze medal at the 26th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, here in Ipoh on Saturday. Penalty corner expert Rupinder Pal sent similar ground drag-flicks into the corner past New Zealand goalkeeper 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 made good use of a cross from Mandeep Singh to put it into the goalbox, while Talwinder Singh added the last goal to India’s scoring in the last minute.
Having failed to earn a place in the final after a disappointing show in the last league encounter against Malaysia yesterday, India gave a much improved display today to clinch the bronze medal – a performance worse than the 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.
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 but he erred in his effort to push the ball in.
Rupinder opened the scoring on India’s third penalty corner, his stunning ground shot leaving the Black Sticks 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.
India will definitely take home some positives from the tournament, although they would have been happier being in the finals rather than playing for the bronze. Indian coach Roelan Oltmans will look to redraw strategy plans considering the loss and India’s patchy performance against Japan as he attempts to build a solid squad to qualify for the Olympics.
Meanwhile, Great Britain beat defending champs Australia 4-3 in a thrilling final to claim the 26th Azlan Shah Trophy, becoming the first British victors since England in 1984.