The Indian men’s hockey team overcame Japan 2-1 in their first Super 4 league match to avenge their loss in the Asia Cup group round on Saturday in Jakarta.
The reigning champions, who had fallen 2-5 to Japan in the pool round, came back to win with two spectacular field goals from Manjeet (8th minute) and Pawan Rajbhar (35th minute).
Takuma Niwa scored Japan’s lone goal in the 18th minute from a penalty corner.
Japan challenged India early on, winning a penalty corner in the first minute, but the Indians fended off the threat.
As the game went, the Indians gained confidence and found their footing.
Manjeet’s stroke of brilliance was the key to India’s victory. After receiving a pass from Pawan Rajbhar, he made a spectacular solo run down the left wing, using his 3D talents to perfection to beat Takashi Yoshikawa beneath the Japanese bar.
In the 13th minute, Maninder Singh earned India a penalty corner, but Nilam Sanjeep Xess’ strike was saved by the Japanese defence.
The Japanese opened the second 15 minutes on a positive note, securing a penalty corner in the 18th minute, from which Takuma Niwas scored off a rebound after Ken Nagayoshi’s initial flick was saved by the Indian goalkeeper Karkera.
Japan, energised by the score, proceeded to apply pressure to the Indian defence, earning two more penalty corners, which the Indian defence successfully defended.
Karthi Selvam squandered a wonderful opportunity minutes later when he failed to beat Japanese goalie Yoshikawa in a one-on-one situation.
Five minutes into the second half, Rajbhar restored India’s lead, sliding home from close range after being set up by Uttam Singh’s excellent stick work.
India gave out another penalty corner five minutes later, but the Japanese failed to take use of the opportunity.
With a one-goal deficit, the Japanese applied constant pressure to the Indian defence, but Birendra Lakra’s backline held firm to preserve the lead.
Japan won a penalty corner three minutes before the final whistle, but the Indians defended well enough to win.
On Sunday, India will face Malaysia in their second Super 4 stage match.
Meanwhile, South Korea and Malaysia drew 2-2 in the second Super 4 encounter of the day.
India, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia will play each other once in the Super 4s, with the top two teams advancing to the final.