India’s men’s hockey team scored two brilliant goals to beat Japan 2-1 in their first Super 4 league game on Saturday.
Goals from Manjeet (8th minute) and Pawan Rajbhar (35th) allowed the team to score a close goal. Japan’s only goal came from a penalty corner by Takuma Niwa in the 18th minute.
Japan 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 a penalty corner in the 18th minute from which Takuma
Niwas scored on a rebound after Ken Nagayoshi’s initial shot was saved by Indian keeper Karkera.
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 back line led by Birendra Lakra held firm to hold on to 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 match on Sunday.
In the Super 4, India, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia will play each other once, with the top two teams advancing to the final.
(Inputs from PTI)