MUSCAT, October 20: Titleholders India rallied after conceding a goal in the opening minute to post a 3-1 victory over Pakistan in the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 in a fast encounter showcasing sub-continental hockey at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex here on Saturday.
Earlier, Asian Games champions Japan got into winning form with a 2-0 victory over South Korea.
Goals from captain Manpreet Singh, Mandeep Singh, and Dilpreet Singh scored in open play to clinch India victory after Pakistan’s opening-minute strike by Muhammad Irfan Jr. on a penalty corner.
A capacity crowd was treated to an exhibition of clean attacking hockey at its best in the showpiece preliminary league contest of the six-nation event.
Pakistan took the lead in the opening minute when Muhammad Irfan Jr. picked up a penalty corner rebound from goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh’s pads and scored with a deft flick into the goal’s left corner.
India went all out into the attack, forcing two penalty corners in the fourth minute and made a couple of forays into the rival circle, but Pakistan’s defenders kept them at bay.
Skipper Manpreet Singh restored parity for India in the 24th minute with a fine solo run down the center as he dribbled past three defenders to flick the ball into the right corner, wide of goalkeeper Imran Butt’s reach. Manpreet was adjudged Hero Play of the Match.
Mandeep Singh put India ahead in the 31st minute by shrugging off his marker to create space in the circle and placing the ball in the goal’s left corner.
Young striker Dilpreet Singh increased the lead to 3-1 in the 42nd minute. Charging in from the right flank, Dilpreet fired a shot that was blocked by Pakistan’s custodian, but the striker picked up the rebound and swept the ball into the goal.
Earlier, Japan recovered from their three-goal loss to Malaysia in the tournament opener on Thursday.
Japan’s goals came through penalty corner conversion by Shota Yamada in the 18th minute and an open field strike by Wataru Matsumoto in the 51st. Yamada was adjudged Hero Player of the Match.
Japan dominated the proceedings but faltered in adding to Yamada’s goal due to mistakes upfront. Japan’s captain, Genki Mitani said his team should have converted the chances into more goals. “We’re happy with the victory, but should have scored more goals,” said Mitani, who was pleased by the performance of his young players.
“Our young players may have erred in fully executing the game-plan but they gave a fine display,” he said.
Siegfried Aikman, Japan’s coach, expressed satisfaction in the manner the boys went all out looking for goals until the end. “We were stepping up all the time and kept playing an attacking game,” Aikman said. “The youngsters may have made some errors in their enthusiasm, but they played an enterprising game, maintained focus and created chances.”
“We were so much stronger that we should have scored more goals,” he added.