Bhubaneswar: After a sluggish start, Japan came back from a one-goal deficit to beat Poland 6-2 in the cross-over encounter Wednesday evening of the ongoing FIH Series Finals to enter the semifinals at the Kalinga Stadium. They will now face hosts India, Friday.
Shota Yamada (20th), Hirotaka Zendana (23rd), Kenta Tanaka (34th), Koji Yamasaki (36th, 60th) and Kenji Kitazato (47th) scored for Japan while for Poland Mikolaj Gunmy (seventh) and Mateusz Hubloj (26th) found the net.
Despite being the Asian Games gold medallist, Japan’s performance in this competition has been below par, a fact their coach Siegfried Aikman has admitted many times during the course of the tournament.
Japan started on a shaky note, and paid the price as Poland stunned everyone by taking the lead in the seventh minute through a Mikolaj field goal.
Joseph Hillyer dribbled past a couple of defenders in the right to feed Mikolaj in front of the goal and the 24-year-old coolly slotted home past Japanese custodian Yusuke Takano.
The Blue Samurais did get chances to equalise three minutes later through back-to-back penalty corners, but wasted both of them much to the despair of Aikman in the dugout.
The second quarter proved to be interesting as the 18th ranked Japanese took the lead, scoring from penalty corners. Yamada, who has been Japan’s flag-bearer recently scoring aplenty in tournaments prior to this event, converted from their second penalty corner in the 20th minute, before Zendana made the score 2-1 three minutes later.
However, their joy was shortlived, as the Poles equalised through Mateusz, taking his tournament tally to four goals. Latching on to a pass from Maciej Janiszewski, the 25-year-old just flicked the ball home to make the scores level at the half time.
The Manabu Yamashita-led side came back strongly in the third quarter with brand new vigour. They not only pressed hard, but also made frequent circle penetrations putting a lot of pressure on the Polish defenders. They were rewarded soon and got their third goal in the 34th minute through Tanaka, this time also from a penalty corner. Two minutes later Yamasaki made it 4-2 with a clinical finish from a combined move.
With the match completely in their grasp, Kitazato netted the fifth on 47 minutes for Japan before Yamasaki completed the rout with his second goal of the match in the final minute.