Defending champions India is back in reckoning by avenging its earlier pool reverse against Asian Games champion Japan in the Hero Asia Cup Hockey Tournament for men at Jakarta on Saturday.
India won its first match of Super 4s by defeating Japan 2-1 to move to the top of the table. Earlier, Korea and Malaysia played a 2-2 draw. In another classification game, Pakistan beat Oman 5-2. India had lost 2-5 to Japan in the pool game.
Playing purposeful hockey with minor aberrations, India pulled off a stunning 2-1 win in a close encounter. Manjeet (8′), and Pawan Rajbhar (35′) were scorers for India while Takuma Niwa (18′) reduced the margin for Japan.
The match started with Japan earning an early penalty corner, but Yoshiki Kirishita’s drag flick went wide off the mark. Raiki Fujishima struck the ball into the back of the nets in the next minute, but the umpire had blown his whistle before the shot was taken due to an infringement in the lead-up, and the goal was disallowed.
Manjeet showcased individual brilliance from the left flanks in the 8th minute, as he broke through Japan’s defence to give India a 1-0 lead. Nilam Sanjeep Xess had a chance to double India’s lead from a Penalty Corner as the first quarter came to an end.
Trailing by a goal, Japan started showcasing attacking intent at the start of the second quarter. Takuma Niwa managed to hit a rebound off a PC into the nets to level the score line in the 18th minute. Japan got two quick penalty corners but Indian goalkeeper Suraj Karkera made two excellent saves to deny the opposition. Searching for a goal to regain its lead, India continued to press deeper inside Japan’s circle. But Japan maintained its nerves and the match went to halftime with the score line reading 1-1.
India received a golden opportunity at the start of the second half with Maninder Singh sending a long pass towards SV Sunil, who was standing unmarked inside the circle. But the ball just went wide off the Indian veteran. A few minutes later, Pawan Rajbhar struck the ball into the nets after receiving a pass from Uttam Singh, and India regained its lead in the match. Subsequently, India maintained its nerves in defence after taking the lead, denying Japan the opportunity to level the score from a penalty corner.
At the start of the final quarter, Manjeet tried to extend India’s lead with a shot towards the goal from an acute angle, but Japan goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa made the save. Ryoma Ooka broke inside the circle a few minutes later, but the Indian defence stood tall and did not allow him to take a shot. Japan made several threatening moves inside the circle. But India maintained its composure till the final whistle and won the match 2-1.
India will play their next game of the Super 4s against Malaysia on Sunday.