Ipoh, Malaysia, 6 April 2016: Five time Champions India came from 0-1 down to beat Japan 2-1 in their opener match of the 25th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. In the other matches of the day, hosts Malaysia held New Zealand by 3-3 in a knife edge match, and Asian Giants Pakistan defeated Canada by 3-1.
Despite starting the game strongly and India holding almost 84 per cent of the possession in the first five minutes, the first quarter ended goal less as Japan defended strongly to deny them any openings.
In the second minute of the second quarter, Japan added to the surprise, by winning the first PC of the match and duly converted it to score the opener.
Soon after India got their act together and started stringing together the sort of game the crowd had come in expecting, with the equaliser for India coming through the stick of Harmanpreet Singh in the 25th minute via their first PC. The teams went into the break locked at 1-1.
The second half saw India come out with a changed game plan, and a complete shift in body language. Captain Sardar Singh, took the reins of the midfield and started bossing the Japanese, and was unsurprisingly, the scorer of their second goal in the 32nd minute. In a move that started at the edge of the circle, with India passing the ball around, Sardar Singh’s dart forward to receive Jasjit’s pass and the subsequent finish from a tight angle, ensured that India took the lead.
From then on it was a one-sided display, albeit with no more goals, as India held the possession, and kept control of the game for large periods of time. Ramandeep once again went close, with a great bit of individual play as he burst past four Japanese defenders and Sardar Singh was denied by the goalkeeper in the fourth quarter. India closed out the match to win 2-1.
Speaking after the match Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans said “When players haven’t played competitive matches for a while, they lack a certain amount of match sharpness and that was evident in our play in the first half. But, we changed that, and came out with the victory, which is the important thing. A huge amount of credit must also go to Japan, for having given us a tough outing. They are a young team and must be applauded.”
India next play Australia at 13:35 pm IST on 7th April, 2016.
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