Hamilton (New Zealand), 27 January 2018: Indian Men’s Hockey Team beat Japan 4-2 to remain unbeaten in the second-leg of the Four Nations Invitational Tournament here at the Gallagher Hockey Stadium in Hamilton on Saturday. After stunning victories against New Zealand (3-2) and Belgium (5-4), India overcame Japanese challenge with late goals by Mandeep Singh (58’) and Ramandeep Singh (58’) to win. The other goal scorers for India were Vivek Sagar Prasad (12’) and Varun Kumar (30’) while Seren Tanaka (14’) and Shota Yamada (43’) scored for Japan. India will next play World No.3 Belgium, who beat hosts New Zealand 4-0 to make the Final on Sunday.
It was India who started well, keeping the ball for most part of the first quarter and came up with accurate passes to make their way into the Japanese striking circle. The team drew first blood when Harjeet Singh dribbled through the midfield to find forward Arman Qureshi who then beautifully assisted Vivek Sagar Prasad who made a diving effort to score India’s first goal. Prasad has been impressive in this tour, creating scoring opportunities for India and even has two goals from his debut match in Tauranga to his credit.
India were slightly dodgy the next few minutes after scoring the goal as they gave up possession and were punished when Japan broke into a quick counter, paving way through the left flank. It was Seren Tanaka who drove into the Indian circle, beating the defenders to strike the ball into India’s goal leveling the score 1-1 before going into the first break.
While India built on their game in the second quarter, Japan kept fighting back trying to defend with all their might. But an error while defending forced them to concede a PC when Varun Kumar’s strong pass sliced through the Japanese circle as forward Lalit Upadhyay forced a foot foul. Though the variation did not fetch a goal, India won another PC after forcing another foul in Japanese circle. It was Varun Kumar who stepped up for the drag flick this time and executed it brilliantly to take 2-1 lead.
Both teams traded PCs at the start of the third quarter. While it was India who won their third PC in the 32nd minute, Harmanpreet Singh’s flick was well-saved by Japanese goal keeper Takashi Yoshikawa. Japan won a PC in the following minutes but couldn’t make much of the opportunity meanwhile, India broke into a fierce counter and made a successful circle entry but Vivek Prasad who attempted a reverse hit was well-saved by keeper. Japan, though, made the most of their second PC when Shota Yamada used a smart variation to caught Indian goal keeper Krishan Pathak off-guard and scored an equalizer in the 43rd minute.
Japan did well the next quarter, cutting down the space, making India work hard to find opportunities. Japan had a great chance to take a 3-2 lead when they were awarded a penalty stroke after Indian infringement but Shota Yamada’s flick was wide off target. For India, Harjeet Singh created another great opportunity to score when he picked up a quick pass by skipper Manpreet Singh to turn around, beat the Japanese defender on top of the circle to strike towards the post and it was Mandeep Singh who deflected in an improvised fashion to convert 3-2 lead in the 58th minute. India made a good finish with Ramandeep Singh scoring the fourth goal beautifully worked out from the top of the circle ending the match with 4-2 scoreline.
On 28 January 2018, India will take on Belgium in the Final of the second leg of the Four Nations Invitational Tournament at 08.30 Hrs IST.
Live streaming of the matches are available on: www.facebook.com/nzblacksticks