The Indian hockey team beat Japan 6-0 to end the preliminary round on top of the standings at the Men’s Asian Champions Trophy 2021 in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Sunday.
Penalty corner specialist Harmanpreet Singh scored a brace for the joint-defending champions while Dilpreet Singh, Jarmanpreet Singh, Sumit and Shamsher Singh added a goal each.
This was India’s third straight win in the tournament, after drawing their opening match 2-2 against South Korea. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists beat Bangladesh 9-0 and followed it up with a 3-1 victory over Pakistan.
India now have 10 points from four matches, which means they will face the fourth-placed team in the semi-finals on Tuesday.
Against Japan, India began with an attacking intent and penetrated the circle in the second minute. But the 4-4-2 formation by Japan made sure they did not concede.
The Manpreet Singh-led side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and also won two penalty corners but could not convert any.
There was action on the other end as well, with Asian champions Japan also winning a penalty corner but Shota Yamada fired it wide.
Minutes later, it was India who went on the scoresheet first, through a penalty corner when Harmanpreet Singh flicked the ball right past the Japanese defenders to give India the lead.
It could have been 2-0 just before the end of the first quarter but Lalit Upadhyay missed a one-on-one opportunity against the Japanese goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa.
India began the second quarter with the same momentum and soon doubled the lead. A brilliant team effort that began from the halfway line ended with Dilpreet Singh scoring from inside the circle with a clinical finish.
For Japan, it was Kenta Tanaka who waged a lone battle, making regular inroads in the Indian circle. However, the lack of support meant he was often easily dispossessed by the Indian defenders.
The pace of the match then slowed down considerably, and India ended the first half with a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Early in the third quarter, Jarmanpreet Singh slammed the ball into the top right corner from just inside the circle to make it 3-0.
Japan could have scored their first goal if it wasn’t for back-to-back saves by Indian custodian Suraj Karkera, who was brilliant throughout the match.
The final quarter began on a dismal note for the Japanese as they were a man down just seconds into the game. India took full advantage and upped their attack, which led to their fourth goal. This time Sumit had the final touch after a scramble near the goal post.
Despite leading 4-0, India did not let up and scored two more in quick succession.
Harmanpreet Singh netted his second goal of the day, which yet again came through a penalty corner and Shamsher Singh combined with Shilanand Lakra to make it 6-0.
India will face Japan again in the semi-final on Tuesday.