An in-form India eked out a narrow 2-1 win over Japan to register their fourth straight win and storm into the semifinals of the women’s Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament on Tuesday. After two goalless quarters, Navneet Kaur (31st minute) and Sangita Kumari (47th) scored for India, while Japan’s lone goal came from the stick of Kana Urata (37th). It was a match between two undefeated sides in the tournament and it lived up to the billing. India had earlier defeated Thailand 7-1 in their opener before getting the better of Malaysia and China 5-0 and 2-1 respectively. The Japanese too were undefeated coming into the match, having registered wins over Malaysia 3-0, South Korea 4-0 and Thailand 4-0 respectively.
It was a battle between Indian attack and Japan’s defence in the first quarter as the hosts relentlessly put pressure on the opposition citadel but failed to produce any result.
The Japanese mostly relied on counter attacks to unsettle the Indians but failed to breach their defence.
Both the teams failed to create any clear cut scoring opportunities from field effort in the first quarter.
However, it was Japan who had the brightest of chances in the form of penalty corner in the 13th minute but Ishika Chaudhary was upto the task to keep the ball away from the net as the first quarter ended goalless.
The Japanese put pressure in the opening moments of the second quarter and created a couple of attacks but all those went in vain. The story was the same as it was in the first quarter as both the teams failed to create any real scoring opportunity.
In the last 4 minutes, the Indians came close to scoring at least thrice but were unable to finish the scoring shots.
India soon secured their first penalty corner but vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka’s threatening shot to the right of Japanese goalie was well defended.
It was Japan’s turn to earn a penalty corner next but the Indian defence was upto the task.
The deadlock was finally broken a minute after the change of ends through Navneet.
A deceptive pass from Salima Tete in the circle area found Navneet, who turned around and fired a powerful backhand shot into the Japanese net.
It took Japan just six minutes to draw level from their third penalty corner. Urata brought her side back into the match, perfectly converting the set piece with a high flick to the top right corner of the Indian goal.
In the 39th minute, India secured another penalty corner, only to be denied by the Japanese goalkeeper.
It was an electrifying performance from both the sides in the fourth and final quarter, which witnessed end-to-end hockey. But it was India, who were the dominant side on display.
Two minutes into the final quarter, India secured a penalty corner and Deepika’s low dragflick was deflected in by Sangita to hand the hosts a 2-1 lead.
India secured another penalty corner in the 53rd minute but the effort was saved by Japanese goalkeeper Akio Tanaka.
From there on, the Japanese pressed hard for the equaliser but the Indians defended bravely to keep their opponents at bay and continue their winning run.
India will take on South Korea in their final league game on Thursday. PTI SSC SSC ATK ATK
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