It’s a new Pro League season, but India continued their old practice of scoring goals at the very end.
On Friday, India led 2-3 against New Zealand at the end of the third quarter in their Pro League opener at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar.
But just like countless instances last season, the hosts didn’t give up until the very end and Mandep Singh scored twice in the 52nd and 57th minutes to help India win the game 4-3.
Apart from the two goals, Mandeep, who won the player of the match award, also helped India win the penalty kick which Harmanpreet Singh converted in the 42nd minute to make it 2-3 for the hosts.
Even after India took the lead in the fourth quarter, New Zealand had the chance to equalize by earning three consecutive corners in the final minute of the game. But goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak did enough to keep the visitors from scoring and help India start the new season with a bang.
Although India won, their defenders had a bad day on the pitch as they conceded up to nine penalty corners. Compared to this, New Zealand only gave one. On a positive note, Mohammed Raheel, who was making his international debut in the 11-a-side game, had a good game and looked quite promising.
However, what stood out was how often India continued to play the air balls. Whether at long or short distances, players have continued to put it to good use. And only a few times have they failed to find their man.
As for New Zealand, they will be upset that they did not win the game despite taking a 3-1 lead at one point. They will now have to pull themselves together quickly and prepare for the game against Spain on Saturday. As for India, they will face the Spaniards on Sunday.
Earlier, Mandeep Mor gave India a dream start by putting the hosts ahead with one minute left in the first quarter. It was an inch-perfect pass from Nilakanta Sharma just outside the D to Mor standing on the right and completely out of control.
Mor had no trouble recovering it, made a short run into the D and slammed the ball into the net between the legs of goalkeeper Dominic Dixon, who should have done better but was undone by the pace of the ball. It was Mor’s first international goal.
After that, it was all of New Zealand that easily penetrated the Indian defences.
First, Sam Lane made it 1-1 when he converted a penalty kick in the 23rd minute. Jake Smith then made it 2-1 five minutes into the second quarter. It was a fine play down the right near the New Zealand baseline and Simon Child played it to Smith, who dove and deflected the ball past the inbound Sreejesh. A minute later, Lane made it 3-1 as he scored his second after New Zealand won their third PC of the night.
They had countless chances to take the game away from India after that but failed to convert them. Instead, India came back into the game with a dominating display in the final 20 minutes.

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