A battling India prevailed in a goal-fest in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup to keep their hopes of reaching the final alive. Propelled by a stunning hat-trick by Mandeep Singh, India downed Japan 4-3 in a contest which could have gone either way. Roelant Oltmans’ side were rewarded for their relentless flow of attacks and the composure they showed in final quarter of the match – first overturning a deficit, and later, grabbing the winner.
Much like their encounter against Australia, India made a solid start to the contest and took the lead as early as the sixth minute of the game through a penalty corner from Rupinder Pal Singh, which hit the roof of the net.
Japan equalised just four minutes later with a slick finish by Kazuma Murata, who netted a field goal. India, though, missed the chance to take the lead towards the end of the first half, failing to make a penalty corner count.
The second half started with the two teams engaged in a cagey midfield battle but Japan forged their way into the lead in the dying minutes of the third quarter from Heita Yoshihara’s field goal. A frantic couple of minutes ensued: Just like’s Japan’s reply in the first quarter, India hit back immediately. Mandeep showed great strength and close control to squeeze the ball past two Japanese defenders and rifle the ball home from a tight angle.
The Indian defence was once again found out with Genki Mitani putting his side in the lead again with just eight seconds left in the quarter. Staring at the possibility of missing out on a place in the final on a whimper, India came out guns blazing in the final quarter. Roelant Oltamans’ side smarted from missing another penalty corner with Mandeep leveling scores with 10 minutes on the clock.
The tired Japanese defence were stretched by the determined Indian attackers, who made stacked up as many as 51 circle entries during the contest. Mandeep’s winner came from a cross-field pass from Rupinder, which the 22-year-old forward shot to the bottom corner with a reverse hit.
India are now level on points (7) with Australia and Great Britain but have played an extra game. India play their final group game against Malaysia on May 5.
India 4 [Rupinder Pal Singh (6), Mandeep Singh (45, 51, 58)] beat Japan 3 [Kazuma Murata (10), Heita Yoshihara (43), Genki Mitani (45)]