In­dia, Pakistan off to fly­ing start

Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Ti­tle favourite In­dia pro­duced a solid per­for­mance to trounce Ja­pan 5-1 in its Pool A open­ing match while ti­tle con­tender Pakistan sent in a strong sig­nal as it routed hosts Bangladesh 7-0 in the se­cond match of the same pool at the tenth edi­tion of the men' Asia Cup hockey tour­na­ment at the Maulana Bhashani Na­tional Sta­dium on Wed­nes­day.

In­dia, play­ing its first tour­na­ment un­der its new coach, Mar­i­jne Sjo­erd of the Nether­lands, meant busi­ness and found the net in each quar­ter, twice in the third, to steam­roll its less-fan­cied op­po­nents.

S V Su­nil (third minute), Lalit Upad­hyay (22nd), Ra­man­deep Singh (33rd) and Har­man­preet Singh (35th and 48th) were on tar­get. Ja­pan's lone goal came through Kenji Ki­tazato's stick in the 4th minute.

Pakistan dis­played no mercy to­wards the hosts as Abu Bakar Mah­mood slammed in three goals in the 18th, 41st and 50th minute to seal a big win.

Drag-flicker Mah­mood struck the first goal and Am­mad Sha­keel Butt made it 2-0 off a penalty stroke in the 33rd minute and Arslan Qadir made it 3-0.

In the fi­nal quar­ter, Mah­mood con­verted his se­cond penalty cor­ner and Butt in­creased the mar­gin to 5-0 in the 47th minute.

Three min­utes later Mah­mood scored again and Qadir rounded off the tally in the 60th minute.

Ear­lier, world No 6 In­dia did not look rusty un­der Sjo­erd, who took charge of the team last month fol­low­ing the sud­den sack­ing of Roe­lant Olt­mans, an­other Dutch­man.

In­dia was quick to get off the blocks when Su­nil, af­ter a fine one-two with Akashdeep Singh, pushed the ball in an open net. But In­dia's joy was short­lived as Ja­pan struck in the next minute through Ki­tazato's field strike.

The In­di­ans 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 its first of its 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 Lalit in­side the D and the striker slot­ted home with a re­verse shot af­ter bril­liantly con­trol­ling the ball.

Two min­utes into the se­cond half In­dia ex­tended its 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 drag-flicker did so by con­vert­ing In­dia's se­cond penalty cor­ner in the 40th minute.

Min­utes later, Akashdeep missed a sit­ter. Su­nil found an un­marked Akashdeep in­side the cir­cle but he hit the ball straight to the pads of the Ja­panese goalie de­spite hav­ing all the time to find his spot.

But soon Har­man­preet made the score line 5-1 in favour of In­dia, scor­ing with a fine vari­a­tion from their third penalty cor­ner.

In­dia earned two more penalty cor­ners in the fi­nal min­utes of the game but wasted both. The In­di­ans will next play hosts Bangladesh in its next Pool A match on Fri­day while Pakistan will take on Ja­pan.

Oman, coached by K K Poonacha, will play its open­ing match in Pool B against de­fend­ing cham­pion South Korea on Thurs­day. The match starts at 3.30pm, Oman time.

Malaysia take on China in the first game of the day in Pool B ac­tion.

In­dian play­ers cel­e­brate a goal against Ja­pan in a Pool A match of the Asia Cup hockey tour­na­ment on Wed­nes­day

Ac­tion from the Pool A match be­tween Pakistan and hosts Bangladesh in Dhaka on Wed­nes­day

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