Asian Champions Trophy: India humble Japan 3-1
India continued their winning run in the 2nd Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament, humbling Japan 3-1 at the Al-Rayyan Stadium in Doha on Friday.
The win would give the blue shirts much satisfaction after their 1-1 draw against the same opponents in the inaugural edition last year.
Earlier, on Thursday, India crushed China 4-0 in their opening match.
On a baking day in front of a sparse crowd, it was the Indians who orchestrated the early raids.
In-form Gurvinder Singh Chandi had an opportunity to put his side ahead in the fifth minute but he failed to make the most of a deflection in a goalmouth scramble.
Japan tried hard to exert pressure on the Indian goal and forced a penalty corner in the 16th minute, which resulted in a follow-on short corner and both those attempts were thwarted by the Indian backline.
India had a decent opening in the 18th minute when nippy Manipuri forward Chinglensana Singh unleashed a powerful hit from the left which Nithin Thimmaiah couldn’t trap cleanly.
India earned their first penalty corner in the 22nd minute and vice captain Vokkaliga Raghunath fired home the opening goal for the blue shirts with a low flick.
Japan pressed hard for the equalizer but the Indian defence held firm. Skipper Sardar Singh was a revelation in the backline, nullifying the goal scoring designs of the Japanese on at least two occasions.
Japan lifted their game by a few more notches and repeatedly raided the Indian citadel but the likes of Raghunath and Rupinder Pal Singh were equal to the task.
Indian forward SV Sunil got himself injured while essaying an attacking move and was taken out of the turf on a stretcher.
Japan earned a penalty stroke in the 50th minute and profited from it pulling off the much-needed equalizer.
The game remained on level terms for only a minute as India quickly regained the lead in the 51st minute through Chandi – who made amends for his 5th minute slip-up.
The goal pepped up the Indians who earned three consecutive penalty corners – putting the Japanese defence under severe pressure. And it paid off when Manpreeet Singh made it 3-1 in the 59th minute.
Five minutes later, India could have gone 4-1 up had Nitin Thimmiah capitalized on a promising move created by the Dharamvir-Akashdeep combo from the left flank.
Japan earned their third penalty corner in the 66th minute when Raghunath carried the ball inside the Indian striking circle. Fittingly, it was Raghunath, who made a brilliant save off the short corner to frustrate the Japanese.