Chandigarh:India started their campaign in the four-nation Punjab Gold Cup hockey on a winning note, defeating New Zealand 2-0 at the floodlit Sector 42 hockey stadium, here on Saturday.
India forced New Zealand on the backfoot right from the start and earned their second penalty corner in the 17th minute.
Rajpal Singh and Arjun Hallapa combined well to earn the penalty corner.
Skipper Sandeep Singh made no mistake and pumped in the first goal in the 18th minute.
The early goal unsettled the visitors and they never really managed to get back their rhythm.
Playing before the home crowd that cheered them all the way, Shivender Singh completed the tally in the 61st minute off a reverse hit after receiving a pass from Sandeep.
It was an electric atmosphere as the firecrackers lit the evening sky celebrating India's win, who earned three points.
At the start of the second half, Prabhjot Singh failed to connect in front of goal following some excellent work down the right. New Zealand tried to launch a few forays but were denied any leeway by the Indian defence manned by Sandeep and Dilip Tirkey. Vikram Pillay was shown the yellow card in the dying minutes of the match but by then India had ensured full points. Sandeep, who was declared man of the match, praised the manner in which the forwards operated.
However, coach-in-charge Harendra Singh sounded a note of caution saying that the team needs to improve its passing.
Earlier, the match was delayed by about 30 minutes than its scheduled start on account of the opening ceremony.
The tournament, which also features Olympic champions Germany and European champions Netherlands, was inaugurated by Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Chairman of the tournament organising committee. Indian Olympic Association chief Suresh Kalmadi was also present during the occasion.