Intercontinental Cup: NZ hands India 2-1 defeat

Moses Dyer scored the decisive goal for New Zealand in the 86th minute in a contest where the home defence was constantly put under pressure.

On the go: India’s goalkeeper Amrinder Singh attempts to prevent a goal. The Indian defence was kept active by the Kiwis on Thursday.   -  Prashant Nakwe

The Indian football team had looked infallible in the first two games it played in the Intercontinental Cup but that illusion faded away on Thursday when it suffered a 2-1 loss against a relatively inexperienced New Zealand side at Mumbai Football Arena.

Given that the home side had sealed its spot in the final, Stephen Constantine made as many as seven changes from the team that drubbed Kenya 3-0 on Monday, while New Zealand coach Marcus Schmid made four changes of his own.

Early pressure

The Indian defence quartet of Narayan Das, Subhashish Bose, Salam Ranjan and Pritam Kotal were kept on their toes from the get-go. The defence scrambled to thwart an attempt in the second minute and custodian Amrinder Singh was forced to dive to his left to save Sarpreet Singh's attempt soon after.

Sarpeet, who has been the star for the Kiwis this tournament, was a constant menace on the left flank and his marker, Pritam Kotal, failed to contain him and was left trailing the winger on most occasions.

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Andre De Jong had a great chance to give New Zealand an early lead in the 12th minute. He timed his run to perfection to meet a brilliant curling cross from Jai Ingham, but his header ballooned over the crossbar.

Stumbling Chhetri

Indian skipper Sunil Chhetri had a chance of his own in the 22nd minute when he found himself in the opposition box with just the 'keeper to beat. However, Chhetri failed to get the ball off his feet and stumbled once too many and Kiwi goalkeeper Michael Cornels Woud swooped in and snatch the ball away.

A clever attacking move in the 44th minute saw Narayan Das play a cross to Balwant Singh, which was headed down in the path of an onrushing Chhetri, whose first-time attempt zoomed inches above the crossbar.

Constantine made three changes at halftime and introduced Jeje Lalpekhlua, Pronay Halder and Halicharan Narzary. The second half got off to an explosive start as both teams scored in a span of two minutes.

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The Indians took the lead in the unlikeliest of circumstances in the 47th minute. Liberato Cacace played a poorly timed back pass and 'keeper Michael Woud's hasty clearance rebounded off Chhetri and rolled into the back of the net. However, the lead didn't last long as De Jong latched onto a through ball from Sarpreet and busted the net to score his first goal for the All Whites.

India continued to foray deep into the opposition’s half but failed to find any clear-cut chance, while the defence continued to struggle to grapple with the pace of the young New Zealand forward line.

Crowd silenced

The Kiwis' unrelenting attacks bore fruit in the 86th minute when Moses Dyer slotted home the winner, silencing the capacity crowd. It was usual suspect, Sarpeet, who once again orchestrated the goal. The 19-year-old weaved his way past three defenders to find Dyer, who calmly beat Amrinder to score. This was also Dyer's first goal in national colours.

Jeje had a strong chance to score in his 50th appearance for the national side in the dying stages but his attempt, from barely six yards out, was cleared by the Kiwi defence.

The win takes New Zealand to the second spot on the table with six points and the side has a chance to make it to Sunday's final if Chinese Taipei defeats Kenya on Thursday. However, taking goal difference in consideration, Kenya will advance to the final if it defeats Taipei by three goals or more.

Final score: New Zealand 2 (De Jong 48, Dyer 86) beat India 1 (Chhetri 47).

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