New Zealand got all three points after edging Japan 3-2 in an entertaining match.
New Zealand, the 2012 and 2015 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup champions, faced mounting pressure from a fast-improving Japan in the first quarter.
Looking forward to a ‘winning plan’ after playing a 1-1 draw against Australia on Saturday and a 3-0 defeat against India last Sunday, the Black Sticks were instead pegged down deep in defence by the Japanese who forced a penalty corner in the fourth minute but Hirotaka Zendena’s push was cleared by goalkeeper Devon Manchester.
And it took Japan, the lowest ranked team here placed at 16 in the FIH World Rankings, just nine minutes into the game to stay on top of the Black Sticks with clinical performance. Shota Yamada blasted the ball past Manchester from a field goal and surprised the World No 8 with clinical performance.
The Kiwis were least perturbed with the deficit and bounced back nine minutes later via a penalty corner as Kane Russell placed the ball past goalkeeper Suguru Shimmoto with little problem to level score 1-1.
The Japanese went on to claim two more penalty corners which went astray.
Needing a win more than a draw, the Black Sticks continued their foray at blistering pace and won a penalty stroke two minutes into the third quarter when Wilcox McKenzie was brought down as he attempted to drive the ball through. Kane stepped up and doubled the lead 2-1.
New Zealand shot 3-1 in the 35th minute and this time it was Sam Lane, left to roam freely by the defence inside the D, picked up the ball from a melee and packed it past replacement goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa.
A shift in momentum in the last quarter saw the Japanese upped the ante and clawed back to reduce the deficit 3-2 from their seventh penalty corner through Shota - his third goal in three matches.
It was a great comeback from the Japanese but as luck has it, New Zealand held on to win their first full points and moved up the point standings.