Title favorites India put forth a striking performance as they excelled in the opening campaign at the 10th edition of the Men's Asia Cup hockey tournament by thrashing Japan 5-1. Japan distressed India at some points, but India took the game in hands quite soon after and scored with fine variation.
This is India’s first tournament under a new coach and it was quite clear that India meant business. The Indian teams found the net in each quarter, including twice in the third, to stream roll a complicated opponent, Japan. Four players were on target - SV Sunil (3rd minute), Lalit Upadhyay (22nd), Ramandeep Singh (33rd) and Harmanpreet Singh (35th and 48th).
Japan managed to score a single goal, which was scored by Kenji Kitazato in the 4th minute. World No 6 India, under the new coach, Marijne Sjoerd, looked quite composed and was not out of form. Sjoerd had to take charge of the team suddenly a month back after the sacking of Roelant Oltmans.
India quickly picked the pace when Sunil pushed the ball into an open net after a fine one-two with Akashdeep Singh. However, Japan struck the very next minute through Kitazato's field strike. Post that, the Indian team managed to exploit every bit of space given by the opponents and completely dominated the proceedings.
In the 21st minute, India got their first penalty corner, but Harmanpreet's flick could not trouble the opponent and lacked power. However, the scoop from Harmanpreet from the halfway mark found Lalit inside the D and the striker shot a reverse shot after controlling the ball.
In the second half, India extended the lead through Ramandeep, who managed to score a gem from a tight angle after being set up by SV Sunil. Next, Harmanpreet converted India's second penalty corner in the 40th minute and registered his name in the scoresheet.
However, Akashdeep missed a sitter minutes later. An unmarked Akashdeep was found by Sunil inside the circle but he decided to hit the ball straight to the pads of the Japanese goalie even though he had enough time to find his spot.
But soon Harmanpreet succeeded in making the scoreline 5-1 in favor of India and he kept scoring with a fine variation from their third penalty corner. It was a near perfect hockey performance was showcased by the Indian team, full of short one-two passes, quick
In the final minutes of the game, India earned two more penalty corners but both were wasted. Even Japan had two scoring chances in the final minutes in the form of penalty corners but the Indian
Next, India will be playing against hosts Bangladesh in the next Pool A match on Friday.