Having drawn their opening game against Pakistan, India’s chances will be severely affected after this defeat as even a big win over Indonesia in the last game might not be enough to qualify for the knockout rounds.
Ken Nagayoshi, Kosei Kawabe (twice), Ryomi Ooka and Koji Yamasaki scored for Japan while Pawan Rajbhar and Uttam Singh scored for the Indians.
full time! India made a valiant effort but was defeated by Japan by three goals at today’s Hero Asia Cup in Jakar… https://t.co/wKrhpNdiOq
– Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) 1653398334000
However, the younger group of players could not match the Japanese, who looked more organized and repeatedly scored India on the counters.
The two seniors – Birendra Lakra and SV Sunil – looked well past their prime and couldn’t make a noticeable difference with their performances.
“The first two quarters were very tough because we couldn’t find our rhythm. In the last two quarters we got better but didn’t create many chances,” said Lakra, the India captain.
“In the last quarter we lost our defensive structure and conceded a couple of goals. We also lost two players and that made an impact,” added Lakra.
Some 📸 from our match against Japan at Hero Asia Cup 2022 held at GBK hockey field in Jakarta… https://t.co/fMEwhAK8Td
– Hockey India (@TheHockeyIndia) 1653400320000
India could have taken the lead in the fifth minute of the first half when 20-year-old Karthi Selvam blocked an inch-perfect cross from the left for experienced SV Sunil, who were inches from using his stick for a tap- to put in.
The first quarter was all about trying to control midfield, with Indian novice players losing a lot of possession during the game period.
But to their delight, the Japanese couldn’t make too many attacks either, apart from a penalty corner, well saved by Suraj Karkera, a diving Indian keeper.
In the second half, however, central midfielder Raj Kumar fired from the edge of the attacking circle at the goal which was saved by Japan goalkeeper Koji Yamasaki and to India’s horror the ball hit Sunil’s boot as it lurked inside the ‘D’.
But India suddenly fizzled out from that initial spark in the second quarter, even as the Japanese upped the ante and earned two more penalty corners – the first of which missed drag-flicker Yoshiki Kirishita with his powerful drag-flick over the crosspiece.
However, in the 24th minute, Ken Nagayoshi converted the penalty corner with a powerful angle shot that ended up beating a diving Suraj all.
The chance to equalize came when Nilam Sanjeep Xess sent Raj Kumar through and the goalkeeper saved his return.
The problem of the inexperienced team was their tendency to attack mainly in the middle third instead of spreading the game on the wide flanks.
Poor play from the aging Sunil didn’t help the Indians much either, as the team didn’t seem lacking in the art of pressing to earn the penalty corners, unlike the Japanese, who were brilliant on the break in the last two quarters of the game .
In the 40th minute, Japan made it 2-0 in a counterattack. Kosei Kawabi snatched the ball from Indian midfield and sprinted down the right wing while left-back Dipsan Tirkey ran at his pace.
It was a spectacular goal that saw Kawabi with his back to the Indian goal and his markers Dipsan and Nilam coming at him. With a body trick, Kawabi wrong-footed goalkeeper Suraj and then rammed him into the goal from a tight angle.
India found something on the rise in the final moments of the third quarter as veteran Birendra Lakra retained a strong assist in close range of the hitting circle and burly centre-forward Pawan Rajbhar was in the right place to put his stick for a perfect deflection found the top corner of the web.
In the final quarter, the Indians gave their all again and conceded a goal against the course of the game in the 48th minute.
With all but one player on the overlap, Ryosei Kato got a cross-field pass to the wide right flank and sliced inside while goaltender Suraj was at his mercy and Ryomo Ooka awaited an open goal. Kato matched it to Ooka, who cheerfully made it 3-1.
India equalized on the very next play, however, when Rajbhar sent in a cross from the right and striker Uttam Singh scored from close range to make it 2-3.
But there was more bad luck for India as they suddenly lost their numerical lead with temporary suspensions from Rajbhar and Karthi.
The nine-a-side match turned into a lopsided duel as Japan repeatedly used the right flank to launch their attack. Koji Yamasaki scored his goal in the 54th minute with a touch-in after none of the Indian defenders bothered to intercept a cross from the wide right.
The Indian resistance was over and the fifth goal was the final nail in the coffin – Kawabe scored home in the 55th minute after his first shot ricocheted off the keeper.
“Beer maven. Creator. Tv fanatic. Internet scholar. Award-winning web junkie. Avid alcohol expert. Friendly writer. Gamer.”