New Zealand held their nerves to edge India in the penalty shootout at the Kalinga Stadium on Sunday, as the hosts crashed out of the 2023 Hockey World Cup.
Despite being ahead in the game, India missed the opportunity to build on a 3-1 lead in the third quarter, when New Zealand scored twice in the final quarter to tie the game at the end of the regular time, forcing a penalty shootout.
In regular time, India's goals came from Lalit Upadhyay (17 minutes), Sukhjeet Singh (24 minutes), and Varun Kumar (40 minutes), whereas the Black Sticks' goals came from Sam Lane (28 minutes), Kane Russell (43 minutes), and Sean Findlay (49 minutes).
India battled back to tie the score at 3-3 in the shootout thanks to a few outstanding saves from seasoned goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, and had two chances in the sudden death as Shamsher Singh missed the final shootout attempt to lose 4-5 in front of the home crowd.
India started the crucial match aggressively as they stormed into New Zealand's circle in the first minute. The hosts lost possession but looked determined to take the lead as they made another penetration in the third minute through India number 11 Mandeep Singh, who made an excellent run into the Kiwi circle.
New Zealand made their first attack in the sixth minute through a long aerial pass but the hosts counterattacked quickly, coming perilously close to scoring the first goal, but the New Zealand defence stayed alert to avert any danger.
Nic Woods was issued a green card in the eighth minute, forcing the Kiwi side to play with a 10-man team for two minutes. Manpreet Singh too was issued a green card for carrying on to play even after the referee's whistle to stop play.
The hosts face a goal threat in the 11th minute but India's resolute defence made sure the ball did not go past them. India earned their first penalty corner PC) in the 13th minute with Harmanpreet sending the ball to the left of the goalkeeper but failing to find the back of the net.
New Zealand survived another scare in the dying minutes as the first quarter ended goalless.
Thrilling action ensued in the second quarter, with both teams creating chances in the initial minutes. India finally made the breakthrough in the 17th minute of the game with Shamsher sending the ball across to Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, who blasted the ball into the New Zealand goalpost to put the hosts ahead.
India secured two consecutive PCs in the 22nd minute but failed to convert them. However, India did score a goal on the rebound but New Zealand used their referral for it to be denied by the third umpire.
The 23rd minute saw India earn another PC but yet again the hosts failed to score as the chance went begging.
Sukhjeet Singh extended India's lead to two goals in the 24th minute, sending the rebound of Nixon into the goalpost.
New Zealand sprung into action in the final minutes of the second quarter as Sam Lane found the back of the net in the 28th minute to reduce India's lead to one goal.
No goal was scored in the second quarter as the first half ended with India in the lead at 2-1.
The 40th minute saw India score its third goal through Varun Kumar on a PC. However, Kane Russell scored in the 43rd minute through a PC just before the end of the third quarter to keep New Zealand's hopes alive.
The third quarter ended with New Zealand trailing two goals to three.
New Zealand sprung into action in the final quarter as they hovered around the Indian circle. Sean Findlay found the back of the net in the 49th minute to level the score and keep their hope of reaching the final eight alive.
The hosts kept fighting and captain Harmanpreet Singh had the opportunity to convert a PC and put the hosts in the lead but missed the opportunity to score.
He attempted a drag-flick, but his effort was lacklustre and the defenders were able to stop the ball before it could find the back of the net.
The final quarter ended with both teams tied at 3-3, with the result pushed to be decided by a penalty shootout.
Harmanpreet scored on the first attempt to put India ahead. Kane Russell took the Black Sticks' first attempt and levelled the score.
Raj Kumar Pal scored for India while Findlay also found the goal to keep the score at 2-2.
Abhishek failed to put the ball into the net while Hayden put New Zealand ahead with a super goal on the third attempt with the hosts trailing 2-3.
The fourth attempt saw players from both teams failing to convert their chances with India trailing at 2-3.
In a dramatic turn of events, Shamsher scored for India while Sam Hiha missed levelling the score at the end of five attempts.
The teams once again lined up for another round of penalty shootouts with New Zealand taking the first attempt.
Nic Woods missed to give India the opportunity to lead but Harmanpreet could not get past the New Zealand goalkeeper, with the score still level at 3-3.
Findlay finally put the Black Sticks ahead in their seventh attempt but Raj Kumar Pal scored to tie the score at 4-4.
Hayden Phillips and Sukhjeet Singh both missed on the eighth attempt to make things more dramatic.
Lane scored the crucial goal to put New Zealand ahead at 5-4. All hopes hung on Shamsher but he failed to rally past the goalkeeper as India crashed out of the Hockey World Cup on home soil.
New Zealand will lock horns with defending champions Belgium on January 24 for a berth in the semifinals while India will face Japan on January 26 for the 9th-16th position in the tournament.
(with inputs from ANI)