MUSCAT, October 27: Defending champions India had to work hard for a 3-2 victory over Japan in the semi-finals of the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018 at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex here on Saturday.
In the final on Sunday, India will meet former champions Pakistan, who prevailed 3-1 in the shootout after being level 4-4 against Malaysia in the other semi-final.
Field goals from Gurjant Singh and Dilpreet Singh and a set-piece penalty corner strike by Chinglensana helped India overcome hard-working Japan.
After losing their preliminary league encounter to India 9-0, Japan had promised to give India a tough game if the teams met again in the tournament.
Asian Games gold medallists Japan, who have inducted several young players for this tournament, lived up to their promise.
After a goalless first quarter, Gurjant Singh gave India the initial lead in the 19th minute by sending a fine reverse flick on target.
Japan equalized with a set-piece penalty corner attempt that saw Hirotaka Wakuri deflecting the penalty corner drive into the boards in the 22nd minute.
Finding Japan crowding their territory, India were not able to find solutions to breach the defense again until the 44th minute when Varun Kumar’s penalty corner shot was deflected into the net by Chinglensana Singh.
Dilpreet Singh increased the lead in the 55th minute by shooting on target in a crowded circle, but only to see Japan bounce back with another penalty corner conversion from Hirotaka Zendana in the next minute.
The Indian defence then held its ground for the last four minute to secure entry into the final.
Indian captain Manpreet Singh said he was pleased to be in the final.
“Japan are tough opponents and we knew we could not take them lightly,” said Manpreet. “We created many chances, but there was some missing and it put us under pressure.”
“Our opponents in the final, Pakistan are a tough side. We have to produce our best game. We must take care of Pakistan’s counter-attacks.” said Manpreet.
Japan’s coach, Siegfried Aikman said his boys went out looking to turn the tables on India. “I’m sad that we lost, but happy with our performance,” said Aikman.
“India had defeated us by big margins in our last two encounters. We had promised ourselves this won’t happen in the semi-final,” said Aikman.