Late strikes from Mandeep Singh and Ramandeep Singh saw India edge out Japan in the second leg of the Four-Nation Invitational Tournament on Saturday, as they continued their unbeaten second-leg streak in the tournament. India are scheduled to play World No.3 side Belgium next, in the summit clash.
Having a good start in the game, India kept possession of the ball for much of the first quarter that eventually saw them draw the first blood through Harjeet Singh, whose solo brilliance in the midfield was followed by a good pass to forward Armaan Qureshi, who further laid it on to Vivek for the goal. However, the brilliant start saw India go sloppy for the next few minutes and Japan capitalized on it almost immediately.
Breaking into a quick counter from the left flank, Japan’s Seren Tanaka pierced into the Indian circle as he dribbled past defenders to get the equalizer. Unlocking Japan’s defence was not easy now as they maintained little gaps in between, before a small lapse in concentration eventually saw India earn two consecutive penalty corners. India took one of them as Varun Kumar jumped on the opportunity to regain the lead 2-1.
However, just when India hoped to have finished off the match, Japan came back to the fore to unsettle goal-keeper Krishan Pathak with smart variation. With the score levelled in the 43rd minute, Japan had a genuine chance to take the lead when they won a penalty stroke, but Yamada’s flick went wide off the target.
With the outcome looking to continue to remain undecided, Mandeep smartly deflected a long hit to restore India’s lead in the 58th minute. It was followed by Ramandeep’s goal in the very next move that was the final nail in the coffin. India will next play World No. 3 Belgium, who beat hosts New Zealand 4-0, in the summit clash tomorrow.