Japan fought their way into the semifinals of the Asian Games by edging Korea 3-2 in a thrilling match at the GBK Hockey Stadium.
The Japanese celebrated at the end of the match and they thoroughly deserved the win.
“The players played their hearts out and the result is a just reward for their efforts,” said Japan coach Siegfried Aikman. We took the lead twice only for them to draw level but we kept our defensive discipline to end up with the win.”
With a superior goal difference of 32, Korea only needed a draw while Japan had to win to make the semis.
Awaiting either of these two teams was Pakistan.
Both teams were cautious in the opening quarter with play largely focused in the middle of the pitch. Japan almost took the lead just before the hooter but the attempt by Koji Kamasaki bounced off the upright.
Korea forced the first penalty corner of the match in the 19th minute but the attempt by Jang Jong Hyun went centimeters past the post.It was the turn of Jung Mun Jae to miss a penalty corner in the 24th minute as he too sent his shot wide.
After the reprieve, Japan struck. Kazuma Murata was given space by the Korean defence and he sent in an unstoppable reverse stick hit to give Japan the lead in the 28th minute.
Knowing well that a defeat will put them out of the semis, Korea doubled their efforts and were duly rewarded when Kim Jung Hoo ghosted in from the right to steer the balk home in the 38th minute. Murata had a deft deflection that sent the ball past the despairing five of the Korean keeper to put Japan 2-1 ahead in the 46th minute. Korea were shocked and launched a series of attacks that saw Jang Jong Hyun concert a penalty corner in the 48th minute to make it all square at 2-2.
Murata had other ideas though and in the very next minute gave Japan the lead at 3-2, for the third time in the match. Korea were awarded a penalty corner in the 57th minute but once again Jang Jyon Hyun sent his attempt wide.
Korea resorted to power play by taking their keeper out but to no avail.