India’s hopes of defending their Asia Cup title were dealt a severe blow after Japan defeated the last edition winners 5-2 in their Pool A encounter in Jakarta on Tuesday.
Hockey India had named a new-look Indian team for the Asia Cup, with a plethora of uncapped players, along with first-time coach Sardar Singh at the helm. The motive was to look at creating a pool of players for the long term, especially with the Commonwealth Games coming up later this year, the World Cup in January and the Asian Games next year – final dates though are yet to be determined.
Subsequently, the only expectation from the team was to gain as much experience as possible by playing against quality opposition. And Japan provided just that.
The 2018 Asian Games champions dominated possession throughout the match, and though the first quarter was largely a midfield battle, it was Japan who looked more comfortable of the two.
The opening goal came in the 24th minute through Ken Nagayoshi’s well taken penalty corner, and Japan doubled the lead in the third quarter. Kosei Kawabe displayed individual genius to fake the Indian defenders before slotting through Suraj Karkera’s legs from a tight angle.
India did find a way back into the match in the last few seconds of the third quarter. Captain Birendra Lakra slapped in a ball from midfield that Pawan Rajbhor got on the end of and neatly deflected home to reduce the deficit.
In the fourth quarter, with the Indians pushing forward eager to find a an equaliser, Japanese players were left unmarked. A throughball found Ryosei Kato in acres of space with just Karkera to beat, but he squared the ball to his left for Ryomo Ooka to score into an empty net to make it 3-1 for Japan.
India though, hit back immediately with Uttam Singh tapping in Rajbhor’s pass. That was the cue for the experienced Japanese players to show their composure as the Indians searched for a way to get back into the match.
The Japanese defence grew tight and disciplined, while their frontline started to exploit the gaps India would leave in defence. Koji Yamasaki scored Japan’s fourth goal on the break before Kawabe ended a solo run with his second and Japan’s fifth.
The 5-2 win for Japan takes them through to the Super 4 stage of the contest. India meanwhile, after drawing 1-1 with Pakistan on Monday, will need a miracle to get to the final four.
They take on hosts Indonesia in the final match of the Pool on Thursday. They’ll need to score a big win, and hope Japan pulls off a heavy defeat over Pakistan to make it through on goal difference. Pakistan had defeated Indonesia 13-0 earlier in the day, while Japan had beaten the hosts 9-0 on day one. While India can indeed win big against Indonesia, they will need a it appears likely that Pakistan will push ahead of them.
India will play their next game against Indonesia on Thursday at 1700 IST.
|Japan||24||15||NAGAYOSHI Ken||Penalty Corner||1 - 0|
|Japan||40||23||KAWABE Kosei||Field Goal||2 - 0|
|India||45||52||Rajbhar Pawan||Field Goal||2 - 1|
|Japan||49||26||OOKA Ryoma||Field Goal||3 - 1|
|India||50||43||SINGH Uttam||Field Goal||3 - 2|
|Japan||54||1||YAMASAKI Koji||Field Goal||4 - 2|
|Japan||56||23||KAWABE Kosei||Field Goal||5 - 2|