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Sultan of Johor Cup | India lose 3-4 to Japan in thriller

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Sultan of Johor Cup | India lose 3-4 to Japan in thriller

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SportsCafe Desk


The Indian junior team nearly pulled off a remarkable comeback in a high octane game, losing 3-4 to Japan at the Sultan of Johor Cup, the annual U-21 hockey tournament, on Tuesday. The juniors will now face Australia in their next match of the league stage in Johor Bahru on October 16.

The Indian team was forced into attack mode from the get-go, after the opposition took an early lead from, with their very first attack in the game earning them a penalty corner. Wataru Matsumoto converted from the set-piece drag flick to put Japan 1-0 to the good. For the rest of the game, it would be a wave after wave of attack from the Indians, while the Japanese resorted to defending as a unit and playing on the counter.

India almost drew themselves level in the contest with a penalty corner of their own in the third minute, by Pratap Lakra’s effort was saved by Takumi Kitagawa in Japan’s goal. Although they were a threat going forward throughout the first quarter, the Indians were unable to apply the finishing touch to their play. Meanwhile, Prashant Chauhan pulled off a succession of great saves right at the end to ensure India went into the first break down by just the single goal. 

The second quarter was a scrappy affair, with India creating opportunities but finding themselves unable to breach the Japanese defence in the final third. In the 22nd minute, Japan struck — once again from a penalty corner — courtesy Kosei Kawabe to lead 2-0 at half-time.

The action-packed third quarter saw India finally find a way through to the back of the Japenese net. Straight from the restart, India earned their second penalty and the combination of Mandeep Mor and Gursahibjit combined executed a routine straight from the training ground for the latter to score.

But Japan dealt double blows, with Keita Watanabe converting their fifth penalty corner to make it 3-1, two minutes after India’s opener. When Kawabe scored their fourth goal in the 37th minute to extend their lead, the deal looked all but over. However, India pulled one back with Sharda Nand Tiwari’s finish from an inch-perfect assist, as the teams headed into the final break with the score 4-2. 

India’s all-out attack in the final quarter finally paid dividends in the 53rd-minute courtesy Pratap Lakra, but in the end, the comeback wasn’t to be.

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