India succumbed to a 1-2 defeat against a spirited New Zealand in their final group match of the 2018 Intercontinental Cup at the Mumbai Football Arena on Thursday.
Sunil Chhetri opened the scoring at the start of the second-half but Andre De Jong and Moses Dyer helped the All Whites register a comeback victory.
Stephen Constantine made a total of seven changes from the victory against Kenya. Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua was named on the bench ahead of his 50th international appearance. As for the Kiwis, coach Fritz Schmid made four changes from their last win which saw skipper Thomas Doyle being sidelined due to injury.
New Zealand had a positive start to the game as they first tested the Indian defence in the 3rd minute through Sarpreet Singh's attempt from the left flank. A few minutes later, in the 12th minute, the All Whites' attack saw Jai Ingham whip a diagonal ball for De Jong at the edge of the box but the latter's header sailed over the bar.
Minutes after the half-hour mark, New Zealand piled pressure on India's last line of defence with their attempts from close-range. In the 35th minute, the Mumbai City goalkeeper Amrinder Singh showcased his reflexes as he pulled off a save from point-blank range. A minute later, De Jong's header missed the mark only by a few inches.
India responded to the pressure in the dying minutes of the first half with a neat build-up from the left flank. Narayan Das released a cross which was headed down into the path of an onrushing Sunil Chhetri by Balwant Singh. The 33-year-old tried to lob the ball over the goalkeeper but failed to find the net.
The start of the second half saw two goals in quick succession as India drew the first blood. A silly back pass from New Zealand forced goalkeeper Woud to come off his line and the goalkeeper's attempted clearance hit the outstretched legs of Chhetri and went into the net.
India's lead lasted barely a minute as the young Kiwis equalised immediately. Getting the better of the home team's defence, De Jong met with Sarpreet Singh's pass to slot the ball beyond Amrinder's reach.
New Zealand looked to be in better control of the attack but failed to finish off their chances. India too didn't look confident going forward.
The Kiwis deservedly bagged the second goal and the lead in the 85th minute through Moses Dyer. Skilful as always, Sarpreet eased past the Indian defence before releasing the ball for teammate Dyer, who sent the ball beyond a helpless Amrinder between the sticks.
The one-goal lead was enough to bag the three points for Schmid as his youngsters walked off the pitch with their second win of the tournament. India and New Zealand are tied at six points with Kenya all set to take on Chinese Taipei on June 8.