Asiad hockey: India outsmart defending champions Japan 4-2
Hangzhou/IBNS/UNI: India outsmarted defending champions Japan 4-2 to book the top spot in Pool A in the Asian Games 2023 hockey match at Gongshu Canal Sports Park Stadium here on Thursday.
Though India and Pakistan are unbeaten after three matches, India are at the top of the group, thanks to the 33-plus difference compared to Pakistan's 30-plus. Both the teams will next play each other on Saturday.
Abhishek (13’, 48’), Mandeep Singh (24’), and Amit Rohidas (34’) scored for India, while Japan came back to score twice in four minutes through Genki Mitani (57’) and Ryosei Kato (60’).
Ranked third in the FIH Rankings, India pushed Japan on the back foot from the start and earned their first penalty corner of the match in the fifth minute.
However, Indian captain and reputed drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh missed the net.
Japan strayed into the striking zone of India and threatened to score from penalty corners, but it was in vain as the Indian defenders led by goalkeeper Krishnan Bahadur Pathak kept the defending champions away from the post.
Abhishek found the first goal for India on a round off a Japanese player's stick in the 13th minute.
India kept the pressure on Japan in the second quarter as Japan lost the services of their captain Masaki Ohashi in the 20th minute as he was suspended for five minutes.
Taking advantage of this situation, India got the second goal through Mandeep Singh in the 24th minute after trapping Nilakanta Sharma's searching pass into the striking circle and converting it with ease.
India mounted more trouble on Japan through their first goal off the penalty corner in the third quarter. Amit Rohidas neatly trapped Hardik Singh’s injection on the second castle and fired over the top-right of the goalkeeper to make it three in the 34th minute.
A brilliant play in the midfield from India in the third minute of the final quarter was followed by a selfless play from Mandeep Singh in the attacking third. Mandeep Singh drew the Japanese goalkeeper towards him and passed it to Abhishek, who tapped in India’s fourth in front of the empty goal.
Japan pulled two goals back in the final five minutes of play through Genki Mitani and Ryosei Kato but the healthy lead helped India seal the match 4-2.
India’s much-awaited clash against Pakistan will be played on Saturday.
The winner of the India vs Pakistan hockey match will go to the top of the Pool A points table. The top two teams from the group of six will progress to the semifinals.