The Black Sticks men have given their chances of reaching the final of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup a huge boost after recording their second-straight win in Malaysia.
After drawing their first two matches at the tournament, the defending champions backed up Saturday’s win over Pakistan with an impressive 4-1 victory against Japan in stifling conditions.
The result temporarily moved the Kiwis to the top the standings ahead of second-place Australia’s clash with Pakistan later on Sunday.
They take on their trans-Tasman rivals on Tuesday before wrapping up round-robin play against India the following day.
New Zealand had been guilty of starting slowly in previous matches but there were no such problems on Sunday.
The Kiwis hit the lead in the fourth-minute after Japan failed to clear a Simon Child cross, with Nick Wilson on the spot to pick up the scraps.
Child then bagged a goal of his own in the closing stages of the first quarter with a determined piece of play.
The veteran striker dribbled his way into the circle before whipping in a fierce shot which rebounded off the keeper. But there was no saving the second shot as Child followed up his own deflection to make it 2-0.
The second quarter did not start as well for the Black Sticks, with a defensive error giving Japan the chance to pull one back.
Kiwi goalkeeper Devon Manchester’s diving effort stopped the initial shot only for Kazuma Murata to sweep in the loose ball.
Despite the setback, New Zealand continued to dictate terms and three minutes before halftime they restored their two-goal buffer when Nic Woods fired in from a penalty corner for his fourth goal of the tournament.
Japan had a chance to get back into the contest midway through the third quarter after a mounting a sustained period of pressure deep in New Zealand territory.
But despite two penalty corners, they came up empty handed as the Kiwis remained in control heading into the final period.
Japan continued to press but again to no avail and the Black Sticks completed a deserved victory when Wilson’s shot was deflected in by Hugo Inglis in the shadow of fulltime.
NZ 4 (Nick Wilson, Simon Child, Nic Woods, Hugo Inglis) Japan 1 (Kazuma Murata). HT: 3-1.
– Story courtesy of Stuff