New Zealand spoil India’s party with a late winner

New Zealand’s late winner handed India their first defeat of the Hero Intercontinental Cup, as they went down 2-1 at the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday. Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring for the Blue Tigers at the start of the second half, but the All Whites dug deep and came back into the game with goals from Andre De Jong and Moses Dyer.

The visitors started the first half in the ascendency, creating a host of chances in the first 15 minutes. Youngster Sarpreet Singh was the driving force behind New Zealand’s attacking play and almost opened the scoring as early as the third minute, but his shot from outside the box was well saved by the host’s custodian Amrinder Singh. Ten minutes later, the All Whites again came back to threaten India’s defence when De Jong pulled away from his marker, but he ended up heading the ball just over the bar.

Stephen Constantine fielded a young squad to give them exposure while resting some of the star players, but they failed to find their hold in the first 45 minutes. In the 28th minute, Captain Cameron Howieson rifled in a thunderous shot at goal from 25 yards out, which narrowly missed Amrinder’s left post, much to India’s relief. However, the best chance of the half would fall to Myer Bevan in the 35th minute, but Amrinder’s heroics denied him the opener and ensured the two teams entered the breather tied at 0-0.

Constantine made a number of substitutions at the start of the second half, introducing experienced players into the mix. It immediately reaped dividends, as Chhetri broke the deadlock, albeit due to a defensive mistake from New Zealand custodian Michael Woud. The young keeper’s attempted clearance ricocheted off an onrushing Chhetri’s foot to roll into the empty net.

However, that did not deter the All Whites as they deservedly got themselves back in the game within minutes. The ever-dangerous Sarpreet slipped through an exquisite through-ball to De Jong, who finished neatly past Amrinder. As the second-half wore on, India started to create more chances especially with the likes of substitutes Jeje Lalpekhlua and Udanta Singh, whose introduction added more pace up front. New Zealand continued to threaten the defence but the latter stood firm.

With few minutes on the clock and the match seeming to end on even grounds, New Zealand’s continuous attempts led to them taking a lead through substitute Dyer. The youngster ghosted past the backline before neatly finishing through Amrinder’s legs in the 86th minute. The Blue Tigers went all out in search of the equaliser in the dying minutes, but New Zealand defended admirably to hold their lead and pick up three points in the process.

Hero of the match: Sarpreet Singh

India Starting XI: Amrinder Singh (GK), Pritam Kotal, Salam Ranjan Singh, Subhasish Bose, Narayan Das, Rowllin Borges, Anirudh Thapa, Ashique Kuruniyan, Mohammed Rafique, Sunil Chhetri (C), Balwant Singh.

New Zealand Starting XI: Michael Woud (GK), Justin Gulley, Nikko Boxall, Samuel Brotherton, Liberato Cacace, Andre de Jong, Tim Payne, Cameron Howieson (C), Jai Emile Ingham, Sarpreet Singh, Myer Bevan.

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