Japan were devastating on the counter-attacks against India in the last four clash, as they set-up a final date with South Korea. India will play Pakistan for third place.
Japan hockey team produced a major shock, upsetting defending champions India in the semi-finals of the Asian Champions Trophy 2021. The final scoreline at the Moulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Tuesday read 5-3 in favour of Japan. As a result of the defeat, India will next play for third place against Pakistan on Wednesday. In the other semifinal, South Korea survived a goalfest against Pakistan 6-5 to reach the title clash. Indian hockey team were the overwhelming favourites going into Tuesday’s semifinal after trouncing the same opponents 6-0 in their last round robin match. But, Japan had other ideas in the semifinal.
The Indian hockey team – the joint-defending champions – endured a nightmare start, conceding two goals within the opening couple of minutes. The 2018 Asian Games gold-medallists, Japan, came flying out of the blocks and got a penalty corner with their first attack. After missing two, they got a penalty stroke which Shota Yamada converted.
India fought back in the second half but couldn’t get past the Japan barrier. 🏑
— Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) December 21, 2021
Their joy doubled soon. Buoyed by momentum on their side, Japan kept pushing forward and earned another penalty corner and from which Indian custodian Suraj Karkera was unable to stop a low drive from Raiki Fujishima. The double blow meant the Indian hockey team took time to get a grip on the match. But, slowly India started to get hold of the ball and controlled possession. However, they were unable to penetrate inside the Japanese circle for the rest of the first quarter.
A fast start by India in the second quarter helped them reduce the deficit by one goal. Skipper Manpreet Singh made a foray down the right wing, as he put his cross into the circle. There was some confusion near the goal post, but Dilpreet Singh was on hand to divert the ball home. The strike gave India a much-needed boost. India then attacked better and started to push Japan deep. They earned a penalty corner but Varun Kumar’s drag-flick was saved and Sumit missed an open goal soon after.
Against the run of play, a rare attack from Japan earned them a penalty stroke. Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak was adjudged to have brought down Kenta Tanaka. From the resulting penalty stroke, Yoshiki Kirishata made no mistake from the spot to put Japan 3-1 ahead. The late goal in the second quarter was a massive blow for the Indians, who now had a mountain to climb.
Japan then maintained a tight defence, as they made it difficult for India to play through them. Besides, they continued to be lethal on the counter-attack, as Kosei Kawabe and Ryoma Ooka added two more goals, making it all but over for India with a 5-1 margin.
The Tokyo 2020 bronze-medallists struggled to create many chances but kept going till the end. With six minutes left in the match, India earned a penalty corner and Harmanpreet Singh scored from it with a low drag-flick to make it 2-5. Hardik Singh then scored with a minute to go to make it 3-5. However, it was too late for India to mount a comeback.