Chennai: The Indian men’s hockey team registered a 1-1 draw against Japan, the reigning Asian Games champions, in its second match of the ongoing Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023 at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium, here on Friday.
Harmanpreet Singh (43′) was the lone goal scorer for India while Ken Nagayoshi (28′) gave Japan a fine start.
Riding on their splendid 7-2 victory against China in the campaign opener, India looked for yet another victory but a determined Japan played with great tenacity to keep the hosts in check.
Though the reigning Asian Games Champions Japan got off the blocks with the right tempo to build pressure on the hosts in the first quarter, India did well to win back-to-back PCs early in the game.
It was Taiki Takade who was not five metres away from India’s free hit which prompted the PC. After three retakes, India couldn’t trap the ball on the top of the circle in the 4th attempt. Though Vivek Sagar Prasad tried to take a reverse hit, Japan did well to close in on him and deny an early opportunity for India. There were a few more bursts of attacks in the opening quarter that kept the home crowds on the edge of their seats.
In the following minutes, a fine counter by India led by Hardik and Gurjant Singh, set up local hero Karthi on the baseline but an alert Japan came up with a fine defending. In the 14th minute, India won another opportunity to score but could not capitalize.
The second quarter began with India getting two fine chances with Akashdeep Singh and Gurjant working in tandem, but couldn’t quite connect and then Sumit created another chance seconds later when he took a swipe at the goal but was well-saved by Yoshikawa.
India continued to push for that elusive goal in the following minutes but a defensive error in the 28th minute gave away a crucial PC for Japan. Ken Nagayoshi did excellently well to convert the goal and gave his team an important 1-0 lead that mounted pressure on the Indian side. Japan created another chance in the 30th minute but Krishan Pathak made a brilliant save.
The third quarter saw India looking for an opportunity to bounce back and they did in the 43rd minute, thanks to Hardik Singh’s effort when he helped the team win a PC. In-form Harmanpreet Singh scored with a classic flick, keeping it low, finding the corner of the net. The 1-1 stalemate ensured an exciting finish in the last quarter, but they could not muster a goal.
With Sreejesh guarding India’s post, it was an uphill task for Japan to convert as he came up with some fine saves. But the visitors did well to hold India from scoring a second goal, thus splitting a well-deserved point and putting India behind Malaysia in the points table.