Hangzhou: Young striker Abhishek fired two goals as India beat defending Asian Games champions Japan 4-2 to register their third consecutive victory. This win bodes well for India as they take a giant step towards the semifinal of the men’s hockey competition at the Asian Games here Thursday.
Abhishek (13th, 48th minutes) scored two field goals, while Mandeep Singh (24th) and Amit Rohidas (34th) were the other scorers for India.
Japan fought back in the final five minutes of the fourth and final quarter and scored two quick goals through Genki Mitani (57th) and Ryosei Kato (60) to reduce the margin of defeat. India will play arch-rivals Pakistan in their next Pool A match Saturday.
The World No.3 Indian team dominated the proceedings for major part of the match and controlled the ball possession, while Japan showed sparks in patches.
After two easy wins, the confident Indians started brightly and secured their first penalty corner in the fifth minute but skipper Harmanpreet Singh’s flick went wide.
India conceded their first penalty corner of the tournament in the 12th minute but the Japanese failed to utilise the chance as goalkeeper Krishan Bahadur Pathak saved Shota Yamada’s try. India secured another penalty corner soon but again the result was the same.
However, an opportunistic Abhishek gave India the lead a minute later, scoring with a reverse stick after receiving an assist from Hardik Singh. India earned another penalty corner but the Japanese defended bravely.
Seconds from the first quarter, Lalit Upadhyay’s timely deflection from Jarmanpreet Singh’s cross was saved by Japanese goalkeeper Takshi Yoshikawa.
India doubled their lead in the 24th minute through Mandeep, who dived full length to deflect in Nilkanta’s pass.
After the change of ends, India secured their fourth penalty corner but Sanjay’s flick was saved by Yoshikawa. India secured back-to-back penalty corners soon, the second of which was converted by Rohidas with with a powerful drag-flick to the top right corner of Japan goal.
India looked threatening and continued to press hard on the Japanese defence in search of more goals as the third quarter ended.
Three minutes into the final quarter, India made the scoreline 4-0 when Abhishek combined well with Mandeep to score his second goal of the day.
However, the Japanese didn’t bow down without a fight and came back strongly, scoring two quick goals in the last five minutes of the game.