In an exciting first fixture for the Indian Hockey Team in Tokyo, they managed to get the better of New Zealand with a 3-2 victory.
New Zealand took the lead early with Kane Russell scoring in the 6th minute. Rupinder Pal Singh opened the scoring for India in the 10th minute, and Harmanpreet Singh followed it up by scoring a brace, with two goals in the 26th and 33rd minute. Despite getting the early goals, goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was the vital player for India as his heroics prevented New Zealand from getting a late equaliser, and helped India win their first match at the Olympics.
The first quarter was fought very intensely, much like the second. And while India were on the defensive in the initial stages, they found the freedom to express themselves more offensively in the following quarter. A lapse in defense saw New Zealand level things up in the 43rd minute, but Sreejesh made two crucial saves to deny the Kiwis a chance to equalise again, being 3-2 down.
Chief Coach Graham Reid had this to say after the victory:
“Winning three points in a competition like the Olympic Games is really important. I think we had a good second and third quarter but the first and fourth we struggled a little bit. When we watch the video later today, we will be able to find out what we need to get better at and surely there are going to be things we learn from today too.
But at the end of the day, we haven’t played for 3-4 months in an international competition, that’s the reality. As far as the weather was concerned, the players handled it really well. We probably could have put away the first few opportunities we created. It may have made the game a little less close. I think that is what we need to focus on. We did well in converting the PCs, but we need to look at reducing the numbers (of PCs) we were giving away.”
India will face Australia on the 25th in their next match.