After a tough 1-2 loss against New Zealand in their second match of the Olympic Test event, the Indian hockey team booked their place in the final after defeating Japan 6-3 in their third match of the tournament held in Tokyo at the Oi Hockey Stadium on Tuesday.
Mandeep Singh (9’, 29’, 30’), Nilakanta Sharma (3’), Nilam Sanjeep Xess (7’) and Gurjant Singh (41’) scored for India while Kentaro Fukuda (25’), Kenta Tanaka (36’) and Kazuma Murata (52’) got on the scoresheet for Japan.
Nilakanta Sharma got India off to an excellent start through a field goal in the third minute. The Indian team put tremendous pressure on the Japan defense as Gurjant Singh took a shot on goal, but saw his shot going wide of the post.
However, a Penalty Corner was awarded to India in the 7th minute which was converted brilliantly by Nilam Sanjeep Xess to help the team take a 2-0 lead. India continued to take the aggressive approach and a few minutes later, Mandeep Singh found the back of the net with an excellent field goal in the 9th minute.
Japan tried to make inroads in the last few minutes of the first quarter as they won a Penalty Corner. Gurinder Singh positioned himself brilliantly and defended the shot on the goal line. India led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.
India continued their attacking game in the second quarter with Jarmanpreet Singh taking a shot on goal, but putting it wide of the post. Captain Harmanpreet Singh had a shot on target, but the Japanese Goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa pulled off a brilliant save.
Japan managed to open their account through a field goal by Kentaro Fukuda in the 25th minute, but Mandeep Singh scored a brace in quick succession to help India take a massive lead at 5-1. The Indian vice-captain scored just before the half-time whistle in the 29th and 30th minutes.
Japan started the third quarter on an aggressive note. They took a shot on goal, which was blocked out brilliantly by goalkeeper Krishan Pathak. However, the Japanese team kept putting pressure on the Indian defense unit and found a goal through Kenta Tanaka in the 36th minute.
However, India didn’t let the momentum shift towards the Japanese side as forward Gurjant Singh found the back of the net in the 41st minute to make it 6-2 which put India in a dominant position at the end of the third quarter.
Japan attacked the Indian defense in the the fourth quarter and scored their third goal through Kazuma Murata in the 52nd minute. India were awarded a Penalty Corner with five minutes left on the clock, but they missed the target. Pathak saved a Penalty Corner in the dying minutes of the match and ensured their place in the final.
The win for India meant that they finish at the second spot in the points table. They will now face New Zealand on Wednesday.