Men’s Asian Champions Trophy hockey: India go down 5-3 to Japan in semis

Japan were devastating on the counter-attacks and their man-marking defence blunted India’s attack for much of the match. India will play Pakistan for third place next.

By Rahul Venkat
Picture by Hockey India

The Indian hockey team lost 5-3 to Japan in the semi-finals of the Men’s Asian Champions Trophy 2021 at the Moulana Bhashani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Tuesday.

India will now play for third place against Pakistan on Wednesday. South Korea progressed to the final after beating Pakistan 6-5 in the other semi-final.

The Indian hockey team, the joint-defending champions, conceded two goals within the first couple of minutes of the match.

Japan, the 2018 Asian Games gold-medallists, came flying out of the blocks and got a penalty corner with their first attack. After missing two, they got a penalty stroke which Shota Yamada converted.

The relentless Japan then earned yet another penalty corner and Indian custodian Suraj Karkera was unable to stop a low drive from Raiki Fujishima.

India then got a hold of the ball and controlled possession but were unable to penetrate in the Japanese circle for the rest of the first quarter. A more robust approach from India then helped them halve the deficit early in the second quarter.

Skipper Manpreet Singh made a foray down the right wing and though there was some confusion after his cross into the circle, Dilpreet Singh was on hand to divert the ball home.

India then attacked better and earned a penalty corner but Varun Kumar’s drag-flick was saved and Sumit missed an open goal soon after.

A rare attack from Japan then got them a penalty stroke. Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak was adjudged to have brought down Kenta Tanaka and Yoshiki Kirishata made no mistake from the spot to put Japan 3-1 ahead.

Japan were watertight in defence and blocked off all passing lanes down the middle for India, which stifled their main creative outlet in Manpreet Singh.

Japan were also devastating on the counter-attack and Kosei Kawabe and Ryoma Ooka finished off two chances to virtually put the match out of India’s reach with a 5-1 margin.

The Tokyo 2020 bronze-medallists struggled to create many chances thereafter. A powerful drive from Lalit Upadhyay was saved by the Japanese goalkeeper and Shamsher Singh’s cross was unheeded inside the circle.

India earned a penalty corner with six minutes left in the match and Harmanpreet Singh made it 2-5 with a low drag-flick.

India did attack with more vigour in the closing stages and Hardik Singh scored with a minute to go but it was too late to launch a comeback and Japan made it through with ease.

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