India went down to Japan 3-4 in a high octane game for their first loss at the ongoing Sultan of Johor Cup in Malaysia on Tuesday.
It was Japan who took an early lead in the game, their very first attack earning them a first Penalty Corner. From the resultant drag flick, Wataru Matsumoto converted to give them the lead in Johor Bahru.
India didn’t let their heads drop though, and almost drew themselves level with a penalty corner of their own in the third minute. But, Pratap Lakra’s effort was saved by Takumi Kitagawa.
India’s attacking efforts were constant and through the first quarter they were a threat going forward, but were unable to apply the finishing touch to their play. At the back, Prashant Chauhan pulled off a succession of great saves right at the death to ensure India went into the break down by just one goal.
In a scrappy second period, India created more opportunities for the equaliser, but were unable to breach the Japanese defence in the final third. Japan for their part, played on the counter, and scored a second in the 22nd minute – Kosei Kawabe converting a PC to double their lead. The teams went into half-time with Japan leading 2-0.
In an action packed third quarter, India struck first, earning their second PC off the game almost straight from the restart. This time, Mandeep Mor and Gursahibjit combined with a PC routine straight from the training ground for the latter to score India’s opener.
Within two minutes though Japan struck back with Keita Watanabe converting Japan’s fifth PC of the game to make it 3-1. Kosei Kawabe scored Japan’s fourth in the 37th to extend their lead to a three goal cushion and at that point it looked like they had done enough.
Within a minute India pulled back one, Sharda Nand Tiwari slotting an inch perfect drag flick into the top right to make the score 4-2 as they went into the final break.
India went into the final quarter attacking without abandon. Their constant circle penetrations and attacking play was thwarted by the Japanese defence but in the 53rd minute their efforts finally paid off. Off a PC, Pratap Lakra struck to drag them to within one goal of a remarkable comeback. In the end though it wasn’t to be, as Japan held on to take a 4-3 victory.
India will face Australia in their next round robin league-stage match on Wednesday.