Clinical India step closer to semis

MUSCAT, Oct 22 – India were at their clinical best as they outclassed Asian Games gold winners Japan 9-0 to edge closer to the semifinals of the Asian Champions Trophy in Muscat late on Sunday. With their third straight win at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex, India stayed top of points table with 9 points after three matches. After a morale-boosting victory against Pakistan, defending champions India made their intentions clear against Japan with a goal in the fourth minute itself. Six Indian players found the target with strikers Lalit Upadhyay and Mandeep Singh netting two goals each, while drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty stroke and a penalty corner.
Indian coach Harendra Singh said Indian team had perfectly executed the game-plan against Japan. “The way we played was good. We played to a plan and did not allow Japan’s team to play in a certain manner,” Harendra told Asian Hockey Federation website.
Japan’s coach Siegfried Aikman said India was too strong to be contained in this contest. “We tried our level best, but they were very strong today. We were below the level as India sparkled with their speed, agility and hard-press game,” said Aikman.
India’s Akashdeep Singh was selected as the man of the match.
Earlier, Upadhyay stunned the Japanese — who came on back of a tough 2-0 win over South Korea —with a diving deflection to start Indian scoring.
Four minutes later, Gurjant Singh got into action after flicking in a rebound from Japan goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa, who was under pressure to thwart Indian attack after their first penalty corner.
Yoshikawa got injured when he blocked Harmanpreet’s penalty corner shot and was replaced by Yusuke Takano. In the second quarter, India added two more goals, thanks to a Harmanpreet double. He converted a penalty stroke in the 17th minute and then sounded the boards with a low penalty corner shot in the 21st.
At half-time India led 4-0.
In the third quarter, Akashdeep (36th minute) and Sumit (42nd) continued to change the scoresheet for India with a goal each past a clueless Japanese defence.
Lalit netted his second in the 45th minute to make it 7-0 for India.
Japan were dealt further blows in the fourth quarter as Mandeep Singh made it count from two openings in the 49th (penalty corner) and 57th minutes. With these goals, Mandeep climbed up as the leading scorer in the tournament with four goals.
Japan earned their two penalty corners in the last minutes but was of no avail. India next meet Malaysia, while Japan meet Pakistan.

Anuroop Athiparambath