Defending champions India concluded their preliminary round Group B matches in the Sultan of Johor Cup 2023 in dramatic fashion, pounding New Zealand for a 6-2 victory at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium on Monday night.

Coach C.R Kumar’s Indian Colts advanced to the semi-finals stage of the tournament. They topped the group with seven points while Pakistan is in second spot with four points and New Zealand trail in third position on three points. Host Malaysia are reeling at the bottom with no points after 2 matches.

The highlight of Tuesday’s match will be the all-important young tigers and the Pakistanis encounter. The Malaysians are fired up to derail Pakistan’s unbeaten run.

Indian forwards set a fast pace playing all-out attacking hockey in the first quarter and gave the Kiwis a hard time keeping pace with them.

Just as the match got off at the start of the hooter Lakra Amandeep went on a scoring spree – knocking three goals (2nd, 7th and 35th minutes), Arun Sahani scored a brace (12th and 53rd minutes) and Poovanna Chandura Boby (52nd) got on the scoresheet for India, while Luke Aldred replied for New Zealand with a brace (29th and 60th).

The Indians earned a penalty corner in the opening minute of the match. Lakra Amandeep seized the opportunity by placing the ball past New Zealand goalkeeper Luke Elmes, to give India 1-0 lead in the second minute.

Lakra Amandeep, who was awarded Player of the Match, could not have asked for a better outing in the SOJC with five goals to his credit.

The defending Champions remained persistent in testing New Zealand’s defence and continued the onslaught till the final hooter.

“It was a fantastic run by the team,” said coach Kumar. “There was no stopping the players from getting quick goals. I am happy with Lakra’s performance and he was aptly recognised by the technical committee as the payer who deserved the man of the match award.”

“All the plyers were outstanding in the own way and there is no single player who did less that the other. It was a great team effort. Now we will look towards the semi-finals,” he added.