Azlan Shah: India clinch bronze medal

India beat New Zealand 3-2 to win the bronze medal at the 15th Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament on Sunday.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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Kuala Lumpur:

A fine brace by Hari Prasad guided India to a 3-2 win over New Zealand in the playoff for the third place in the 15th Sultan Azlan Shah hockey tournament on Sunday. It was India's first podium finish since 2000 when they finished third behind Pakistan and Korea. In a hard-fought game, India, who led 2-1 at the break, found their star in Hari Prasad who scored twice in the eighth and 35th minutes while drag-flick specialist Sandeep Singh converted a penalty corner in the 43rd that proved to be the match-winner. The Black Sticks stayed in the match right through after Simon Child put them ahead in the seventh minute and Hayden Shaw found the mark from a 39th minute penalty corner to put his team on level terms. The Indians also owed their victory to goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza who stopped at least four clear goals and also wing half-backs V S Vinaya (right) and Prabhodh Tirkey (left), both of whom had an outstanding game today. India should have finished the first-half in a far more comfortable position but for some poor finishing by the forwards and also a loss of concentration by the deep defence. The Indians repeatedly breached the fragile Kiwi defence only to break down inside the striking circle due to wrong passing or positional play. In the sixth minute, Arjun Halappa pounced on a deflection and fired the ball onto the boards. Even though TV replays showed that the ball was inside the striking circle, Korean umpire Jung Min Jang disallowed the goal saying the hit was not taken from inside the D. The Indians were distracted by the incident and the Kiwis mounted a fast counter-attack at the end of which Child deftly turned and let fly a reverse hit to the net. Despite the stunning reverse, the Indians, who had beaten New Zealand by the same margin in the two practice games ahead of the tournament, kept their composure to equalise almost immediately. A diagonal scoop by Sandeep Singh found Bradley Shaw just inside the New Zealand half. Shaw, however, messed with the block and Hari Prasad snatched the ball from him. In a burst of brilliant acceleration, Prasad steamed into the circle and beat goalkeeper Kyle Pontifex with an angular hit from the right. Thereafter, India controlled and dominated the flow, but could not score until seconds before the half-time whistle from a superb transfer of ball. Halappa, from near the left corner flag, backpassed to Vikram Pillay whose diagonal hit into the circle was deflected into the net by Prasad. The early minutes of the second-half witnessed a series of penalty corners. Shaw came good for the Kiwis while Sandeep replied in kind for India with a nice variation. The match then swung from end to end with both goalkeepers staying busy in saving attacks by rival forwards. D'Souza, in particular, displayed brilliant agility and reflexes to parry attempts, including two by Hayden Shaw and one by Bevan Hari. At the other end, the Indians, as in the first-half, penetrated repeatedly and with a sharper finish they could have scored a few more goals. (PTI)