Sjoerd Marijne’s tenure with the Indian men’s hockey team started in emphatic fashion as the side thumped Japan 5-1 in Dhaka on Wednesday to begin their Asia Cup campaign. The two-time champions were in imperious touch, making a whopping 23 circle entries.
SV Sunil put his side in the lead as early as the third minute of the game before the Japanese levelled the score almost immediately through Kenji Kitazato’s finish at the far post.
Lalit Upadhyay’s stunning effort to put his side back in the lead was followed by a dominant display by the Indians in the second half. Ramandeep finished from a tight angle to give is side a two-goal cushion. Harmanpreet Singh completed the rout with two top-notch penalty corners.
Quite predictably, India saw more of the ball, but wasted little time to get into the lead as a surging run from Akashdeep Singh set up Sunil, who calmly slotted the ball home after rounding up the keeper.
Japan hit back and levelled scores in the fifth minute. Here, Indians were culpable for some sloppy defensive work at the goalmouth and Kitazato tucked the ball home with a dive timed to perfection.
Following a cagey end to the first quarter, India came out guns blazing in the second. Sunil had two glorious chances in as many minutes to restore his side’s lead. Harmanpreet Singh then had a penalty corner opportunity, which the Japanese somehow managed to parry away.
The two-time winners got their lead back through Upadhyay’s brilliant control and shot – the reverse-hit was struck ferociously to the bottom corner. Japan’s chances in the contest withered away from thereon. A buoyant India were dictating the pace of the contest: Manpreet Singh and Ramandeep Singh’s precise passes from the middle allowed Sunil, Akashdeep and Upadhyay to make circle entries at will.
Playing the waiting game cost Japan yet again. India’s attacks had more rhythm in the third quarter and may have enjoyed a bigger lead had they been more clinical in front of goal. Ramandeep doubled the two-time champions’ lead with a flick from a tight angle on the right. The goal was awarded to the two-time champions after several television replays confirmed it.
During the closing stages of the quarter, Sunil could have easily added one more to his tally but he failed to latch on to a left-wing cross. Japan’s sole opening came through a quick-fire counter. Kota Watanabe’s shot, though, went narrowly wide of the goal. Harmanpreet duly opened his account, emphatically pinging the ball home from a PC.
India continued to relentlessly penetrate through the circle. A clever turn and shot from Harmanpreet from another PC gave India’s fifth. India’s thrilling display, though, was marred by Ramandeep limping off with five minutes left in the game.
- India 5 (Harmanpreet Singh x 2, SV Sunil, Lalit Upadhyay, Ramandeep Singh) beat Japan 1 (Kenji Kitazato)