Spirited Japan beat defending Champions India 5-3 in an intensely-fought Semi-final match at the Hero Men’s Asian Champions Trophy on Tuesday. Next, India will play the 3rd/ 4th place match against Pakistan who lost 5-6 to Korea in the other Semifinal played today at the Moulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka.
Goals were scored by Shota Yamada (1′), Raiki Fujishima (2′), Yoshiki Kirishita (29′), Kosei Kawabe (35′), Ryoma Ooka (41′) in Japan’s win while for India Dilpreet Singh (17′), Harmanpreet Singh (53′) and Hardik Singh (59′) scored a goal each.
A slow start by India proved too costly for them as the Japanese attack made vital inroads into the Indian defence in the first two minutes of the game. They scored back-to-back goals from a penalty stroke in the 1st minute by Yamada and in the 2nd minute a PC well-struck by Fujishima. Japan earned as many as six penalty corners in the first quarter.
Although India looked like they would overcome the initial 2-0 setback when Dilpreet Singh opened the account for India in the 17th minute with a field goal, India could not convert from the chances they created. In the 20th minute, India found a brilliant opportunity to equalise when India earned the first PC of the match. But the chance went begging when young Nilam Sanjeep Xess could not convert. Although Skipper Manpreet Singh teamed up with Gursahibjit Singh to try to fetch a goal from the rebound, the later could not connect the ball well to put it past the Japanese goalie.
In the meantime, Japan forced yet another infringement by India which saw them win another penalty stroke of the match. This time, Kirishita put the ball past Krishan Pathak who had replaced Suraj Karkera at the goal post in the second quarter.
Going into the half time break with 3-1 lead, Japan returned to the pitch for the third quarter with more ammunition in their attack. They were relentless in their pursuit to ensure they stayed ahead of India and their tight defensive structure meant that the Indian attackers would be kept at bay. Though India played the third and the quarter with a better structure, and gave away just one goal in the 41st minute, the goal-difference proved too big for a comeback in the final moments of the match.
While Harmanpreet and Hardik fetched a goal each for India in the final quarter, it was simply not enough to stop Japan from going into the final of the Hero Men’s Asian Champions Trophy.
On 22nd December, India will play Pakistan at 1500hrs IST in the bronze medal play-off match.