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"Cards without reason, goal denied, PC awarded wrongly," says Japan coach Aikman after loss to India 

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500   //    15 Jun 2019, 08:53 IST

Aikman rued several umpiring decisions in the semifinals
Aikman rued several umpiring decisions in the semifinals

Given the pressures that modern-day international coaches have to cope with, being gracious in defeat does not come easy.

And when questionable umpiring decisions appear to favour the opposition especially in a big semifinal, it is rather tough to remain nonchalant.

Siegfried Aikman rarely offers excuses for defeats - often lauding the opposition for playing a better game than his boys - as he did after Japan was thrashed by a 0-8 margin in a pool game of the Asian Games at Jakarta.

Aikman had lauded the Indians in spite of a heavy defeat at Jakarta

The coach who went on to guide his team to glory at Jakarta was all praise for Harendra Singh and his boys and had congratulated the Indians the day after the match.

"I slept restlessly after yesterday’s match against India. India outplayed us. They were very focused and played with a speed which was too high for us. It’s very important for us to learn lessons from India and we will."
"Harendra and his team were well prepared. As a coach, I had a hard time watching my team lose 8-0 but it’s a reality. On the other hand, I think that India showed us how we can improve. Congratulations India. Come on Samurai Japan we never give up."

After a close 0-2 loss to India at the Azlan Shah Cup earlier this year, the Dutchman categorically stated that although his team played well and controlled the game for large periods, the Indians deserved to win because in hockey a team cannot win if they do not score.

Why then did the same coach point to bad refereeing after his team's 2-7 loss to India in the semifinal of the FIH Series Finals?

We strongly believe that the odds were against us

The Japanese began in right earnest with Kenta Tanaka picking out Kenji Kitazato who slammed one past Krishan Pathak to stun the home crowd at the Kalinga Stadium while Gursahibjit at the other end shot wide with only goalkeeper Takano to beat.

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Harmanpreet Singh restored parity for the Indians in the seventh minute off a follow-up PC which was hotly contested by the Japanese - just as the first was - with Yamashita gesturing to the umpire repeatedly that the PC should not have been awarded.

In an exclusive interaction with Sportskeeda after the match, Aikman was emphatic that quite a few decisions went against the Asian Games champions but was of the opinion that his players needed to grow mentally.

"We watched the video and the equalizer should not have been a PC."

Watanabe then equalized after Varun Kumar had given India the lead and the match looked to be balanced on a knife-edge when Ramandeep and Hardik scored one each from open play to tilt the scales in favour of the home team before half-time.

Kazuma Murata got a card for protesting with the umpire when the ball did manage to make its way into the Indian net but the goal was not awarded - and to rub salt into Japanese wounds, the Indians scored off a quick counter.

"We got cards without reason and our goal was denied to us. We strongly believe that the odds were against us."

The sulking Japanese players seemed to lose their way altogether and made India's task a lot easier as the game progressed and Sportskeeda asked the master coach if his players could have controlled their emotions on the pitch.

"It must be controllable if we want to compete with the better teams. Mentally, we have to grow and physically as well - not with regard to stamina - but physical power."

Umpires human too - but disappointing for us

The absence of video referrals in the tournament meant that the players who have now become accustomed to seeking a second opinion had no option other than to either accept the umpires decisions with a sense of resignation or vent their frustration on the pitch.

No Indian player was shown a card but the Japanese players picked up two green cards after the long breather - Suguru Hoshi had to leave the pitch in the opening minutes of the third quarter before Murata followed suit.

The final quarter was one that the Japanese would like to forget in a hurry as they were a man down twice in a row during the last fifteen minutes with Masaki Ohashi and Genki Mitani picking up yellow cards in quick succession.

In spite of the reverse, Aikman chose to be philosophical at the end of the day.

"Umpires are also human and had a bad day which can happen - but it is disappointing for us."

Japan will play the USA in the classification match for third place while the Indians will be up against South Africa in the final later in the evening.

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