Disappointment was clearly visible on the Indian hockey fans as they battled to a 1-1 draw with lower ranked Japan in the first Test in Bhubaneshwar. The onus was on the home side to pull up their socks and dish out the kind of hockey they are known to play in the second Test.
Though one would stop short of calling it a ‘vastly improved showing’, they has to admit that the team exhibited more intent to move forward, although it’s a different matter altogether that they struggled to hold their sway in the Japanese ‘D.
The goalless opening quarter smacked off signs of another tight contest and it indeed was as the Japanese were in no mood to give an inch and were prepared to run India close. The noisy crowd at the Kalinga Stadium breathed some sigh of relief when SK Uthappa made the most off a Yuvraj Walmiki assist to give India the lead in the second quarter and that’s how the scoreline remained at half-time.
Japan kept plugging away in midfield and did not allow India enough open spaces to manoeuvre – the hosts sprayed their passes in midfield for most part in the third quarter and looked more dangerous when Gurbaj Singh ran on his own to fumble with only the Japanese goalie to beat in the dying moments of the third quarter.
Dharamvir Singh eased the Indian nerves doubling the lead in the final quarter after he deflected home an SV Sunil reverse shot, which was saved by the Japanese defence.
India muffed several goal-scoring chances in the closing stages, but would take the positives from their 2-0 win as they open up a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series.