India start with a bang, thrash Japan 5-1
Title favourites India produced an impressive performance to outclass Japan 5-1 in their opening match at the 10th edition of the men’s Asia Cup hockey tournament here today. In their first tournament under coach Marijne Sjoerd, India meant business and found the net in each quarter to streamroll their less-fancied but tricky opponents. SV Sunil (3rd minute), Lalit Upadhyay (22nd), Ramandeep Singh (33rd) and Harmanpreet Singh (35th and 48th) were on target for India. Japan’s lone goal was scored by Kenji Kitazato’s in the 4th minute. World No. 6 India did not look rusty under their new coach, who took charge of the team just last month following the sudden sacking of Roelant Oltmans. India were quick to get off the blocks when Sunil, after a fine one-two with Akashdeep Singh, pushed the ball into the open goal. But India’s joy was shortlived as Japan struck in the next minute through Kitazatos field strike. India completely dominated the proceedings and exploited every single bit of space given by the Japanese. They utilised both the wings to perfection to set up their attacks.
India got the first of their four penalty corners in the 21st minute but Harmanpreet’s flick didn’t have enough power to trouble the Japanese citadel. An inch-perfect scoop from Harmanpreet from the halfway mark found Upadhyay inside the circle and the striker slotted home with a reverse shot after brilliantly controlling the ball.
Two minutes into the second half, India extended their lead through Ramandeep, who scored a gem with a thundering shot from a tight angle after being set up by Sunil.
Next it was Harmanpreet’s turn to register his name in the scoresheet and the dragflicker did so by converting India’s second penalty corner in the 40th minute. Minutes later, Akashdeep missed a chance. Sunil found an unmarked Akashdeep inside the circle but his deflection went straight into the pads of the Japanese goalkeeper.
But soon Harmanpreet made the scoreline 5-1, scoring with a fine variation from India’s third penalty corner.
India couldn’t have asked for a better start to the tournament as they showcased near perfect hockey, which was full of short one-two passes, quick turnovers and variations. India earned two more penalty corners in the final minutes but wasted both. Japan too secured two scoring chances in the dying minutes in the form of penalty corners but the Indian defence held the fort. In the second match, Pakistan thrashed hosts Bangladesh 7-0. India will next play Bangladesh in their next Pool A match on Friday.