INDIA: The young Indian men’s hockey team put in a solid performance to defeat Japan 1-0 and win the Asia Cup bronze medal on Wednesday.
Following a thrilling 4-4 tie with South Korea on Tuesday, reigning champions India came out with a purpose, scoring a field goal through Raj Kumar Pal in the seventh minute of the game and then defending in numbers to seal the deal.
The team started brightly and pushed firmly in the first five minutes of the match, but their attacks fizzled once they were inside the opponent D.
The Indians, on the other hand, broke the deadlock in the seventh minute, with Uttam Singh performing all the hard work on the right flank to set up Rajkumar Pal, who deftly stroked the ball past Japanese goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa.
The Indian team were awarded two consecutive penalty corners three minutes later, but both were squandered.
Japan pressed hard in the final five minutes of the first quarter in quest of an equalizer, mounting many raids, but the Indian defence held firm to maintain their lead.
With a one-goal deficit, Japan continued to attack, earning two consecutive penalty corners in the 20th minute, but the Indians defended in force to maintain their lead.
Both the teams had a few more chances in the second quarter, but both teams fell in the final third.
After the change of ends, Japan went on the attack and quickly secured two more penalty corners, but they could not break down the tenacious Indian defence.
Meanwhile, India had an excellent opportunity to expand their lead, but Rajkumar fired over from close range after receiving a feed from SV Sunil.
In the final two quarters, the Japanese applied continuous pressure on the Indian citadel to pursue an equaliser, but the Birendra-Lakra team stayed firm in denying their opponents.
Japan won three penalty corners in a row in the 48th minute but couldn’t break through the Indian defence.
In the 51st minute, Japan was awarded another penalty corner, but the Indian defence once again thwarted the opportunity.
While Japan pressed hard in the final minutes, the Indians used numbers at the back to successfully protect their one-goal lead and finish on the podium.
Malaysia and South Korea will compete for the title later in the day.