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इंडियन आवाज़     19 Sep 2021 04:43:45      انڈین آواز

Olympics Hockey Men: India over power Japan 5-3 to face Britain in quarter finals


By Harpal Singh Bedi

India made heavy weather of their win as they overcame spirited Japan 5-3, to finish second in Pool A and set up a quarter final clash with Great Britain in the Olympic Men’s Hockey competition at the Oi Stadium in Tokyo on Friday.

Great Britain held favorite Belgium 2-2 to finish third in Pool B

Gurjant Singh (17′, 56′), Harmanpreet Singh (13′), Shamsher Singh (34′) and Nilakanta Sharma (51′) scored for the winners while Kenta Tanaka (19′), Kota Watanabe (33′) and Kazuma Murata (59′) were the goal getters for Japan.

India opened the contest on a very brisk note and made short and quick exchanges to create goalscoring openings in the early minutes.

Vivek Sagar Prasad did get a chance to draw the first blood in the 7th minute but missed the target by a whisker.

On the other hand, hosts Japan tried to make inroads on the counter attacks, with Hirosama Ochihai hitting the shot on target, but missed out on finishing it. In the 12th minute, India earned their first Penalty Corner, and Harmanpreet e converted make it 1-0 at the end of the first quarter.

India wasted no time capitalising on their lead as Gurjant and Simjranjeet’s combined effort made it 2-0 in the 17th minute.

Playing his 50th international match Simranjeet provided a good assist to Gurjant, who just guided the ball in the goal post with ease.

The hosts, though, pulled one back through Kenta Tanaka’s field goal in the 19th minute. An error in defence by Birendra Lakra gave away the ball cheaply to Tanaka, who took a few steps forward and beat PR Sreejesh with an angular shot.

India, still dominating the possession tried to make inroads, but Japan’s defence foiled the danger.

Manpreet’s entered the 10-minute half-time break with a one-goal advantage over the hosts.

Playing under the pressure of trailing by a goal, Japan started the third quarter aggressively and scored an equaliser in the 33rd minute through Kota Watanabe’s shot.

However, the Indians responded quickly and took the lead again in the 34th minute. It was Shamsher, who put India back in front. He smartly deflected Nilakanta Sharma’s shot into the post.

Enjoying the possession in the middle, India won their second Penalty Corner in the dying minutes of the third quarter, but Harmanpreet’s shot was deflected by the Japanese defender (3-2).

Both teams started the final quarter on an attacking note, making inroads in each other’s striking circle.

In the 51st minute, India doubled their lead as Nilakanta deflected a remarkable pass from his compatriot Surender from the left flank.

In the 55th minute, Japan won their first Penalty Corner, and Sreejesh made another great save to deny Japan their third goal.

Still attacking hard, India won their fourth Penalty Corner, and it was Gurjant who expertly found the back of the net making after receiving a pass from Varun Kumar making the scoreline 5-2 in the 56th minute.

Japan also pulled back one in the 59th minute through Kazuma Murata’s shot. But that was not enough for the hosts as India capped off their final Pool A match with a 5-3 win.

“Better performance tonight. First-quarter was pretty good, we lost a little bit after they scored. In the second half, we came out and sort of regained control over the game.” said coach Graham Reid

But I thought we played better. We really tried playing at a much higher tempo tonight, trying to get on the tempo that we are going to need on Sunday. I think we mixed that up pretty well and played a controlled game.

Good to get a couple of field goals, created a lot of opportunities, but I think we still need to get better at those outcomes in the circle.” He added

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