Bhubaneswar: The Indian hockey team outplayed Japan 2-1 in the third game to seal the four-match bilateral Test series 2-0 in their favour at the Kalinga Stadium here on Thursday. Penalty corner specialist V.R. Raghunath converted one with ease while Akashdeep Singh displayed brilliant stick-work to score the second goal for India. After a tough fight, Hirotaka Wakari scored the lone goal for Japan. Also Read- India start Hockey World League preparation with Japan Test series.
In the first quarter, it was Japan who attacked first, from the left flank and pressurised India. They continued with long passes and kept India busy throughout. But they faced a tough defence from Birendra Lakra, K. Chinglensana and Raghunath who together foiled Japanese attacks. Soon after India charged back, led by captain Sardar Singh and with the help of short passes, managed to sneak into the Japanese D on a few occasions. However, they could not give perfect finishes. In the 19th minute, Japan’s Tomonori Ono ran through the left flank where the captain found teammate Hiroki Sakamoto in the circle, who took a reverse shot which was nicely blocked by stand-in keeper Harjot Singh.
India reverted with a series of counterattacks and kept the ball in Japan’s half. In the last minute of the second quarter, Japan made a counterattack and entered the Indian circle but Lakra again thwarted their attack.
Seconds from the halftime hooter, India earned their first penalty corner. Dharamvir Singh pushed the ball in and Raghunath dragged it on the right of Japanese goalie Suguru Shimmoto, who tried to stop it with his right hand but the ball deflected and went in. Sardar played very deep and coordinated with the defenders and midfielders throughout the match.
Thanks to that, in the 36th minute, Akashdeep got possession and ran with the ball, dribbling past Japanese defenders and hit the ball at the goal, beating the Japanese keeper for the second time. It was a spectacular goal from Akashdeep, who single-handedly doubled the lead to 2-0.
However, the joy was short-lived as a Japanese counter-attack helped them manage a penalty corner in the 44th minute, which was converted by Wakari to reduce the margin to 1-2 by the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter proved fruitless for both teams despite a few chances. In the 50th minute, India earned another penalty corner but Harmanpreet Singh’s drag was saved by the Japanese goalie. India had another chance when they took the ball near the goal mouth but faced a stiff Japanese defence.