India’s men’s hockey team scored two fantastic field goals to beat Japan 2-1 in their opening Super 4 league game and avenge their loss in the Asian Cup group stage here on Saturday.
The defending champions, who lost 2-5 to Japan in the group stage, scored two eye-catching goals through Manjeet (8th minute) and Pawan Rajbhar (35th) to register a narrow victory.
Japan’s only goal came from a penalty corner by Takuma Niwa in the 18th minute.
Japan initially threatened India and earned a penalty corner in the first minute, but the Indians thwarted the danger.
The Indians gained confidence and gained footing as the game progressed.
It was a moment of brilliance from Manjeet that gave India the lead. He made a brilliant solo run down the left flank after receiving a pass from Pawan Rajbhar and used his 3D skills to perfection to beat Takashi Yoshikawa under the Japanese bar.
Maninder Singh earned India a 13th minute penalty corner but Nilam Sanjeep Xess’ effort was saved by the Japanese defence.
As was the case in the first quarter, the Japanese started the 15 seconds on a promising note and earned an 18th-minute penalty corner from which Takuma Niwas scored on a rebound after Ken’s initial kick Nagayoshi was saved by Indian goalkeeper Karkera.
Read also | ‘Should just put his bat in his bag’: Vaughan’s interesting advice to Kohli
Invigorated by the goal, Japan continued to put pressure on the Indian defense and earned two more penalty corners, which the Indian defense held at bay.
A few minutes later, Karthi Selvam missed a golden chance as he failed to get past Japan goalkeeper Yoshikawa in a one-on-one situation.
Rajbhar restored India’s lead five minutes into the second half, heading home from close range after being set up by brilliant stickwork from Uttam Singh.
Five minutes later, India conceded another penalty corner, but the Japanese failed to seize the opportunity.
Trailing by one goal, the Japanese put relentless pressure on the Indian citadel, but the backline led by Birendra Lakra held firm to maintain their lead.
With just three minutes to go, Japan were awarded a penalty corner but the Indians defended in numbers to register the win.
India will face Malaysia in their next Super 4 stage game on Sunday.
Meanwhile, in the day’s other Super 4 match, South Korea and Malaysia drew 2-2.
In the Super 4, India, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia will play each other once, with the top two teams advancing to the final.