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Champions Challenge: India beat Japan 4-3, finish 3rd
Anand Philar in Boom | June 30, 2007 20:21 IST
India finally got their penalty corner drill right as they beat Japan [Images] 4-3 in their concluding league fixture to finish third in the Champions Challenge hockey tournament in Boom on Saturday.
Goals by Sandeep Singh (7th), Prabhjot Singh (22nd, 34th) and Dilip Tirkey (48th) set up the Indian win with Kenichi Katayama (12th), Takahiko Yamamori (47th) and Kazuhiro Tsubouchi (65th) replying for Japan.
The hard-fought victory, their third in five matches, helped India finish third on nine points behind New Zealand [Images] (11) and Argentina (10) while Japan remained on three points.
With no hopes of qualifying for tomorrow's final, after the 3-3 draw between New Zealand and Argentina, the Indians played far more freely and were under less pressure.
Also, with the Japanese midfield virtually non-existent, the Indians had plenty of time to launch their attacks. They converted three of the six penalty corners that came their way.
But then, the Indian defence, when under the infrequent attacks that the Japanese came up with, appeared rather tentative.
The marking and covering left a lot to be desired and the Japanese capitalised on these lapses. With a little more luck, they could have turned tables on India.
India dominated the first-half and launched a series of attacks to keep Japan pegged in their own half. However, during the few Japanese counter-attacks, the Indian defence appeared vulnerable, conceding four penalty corners.
More significantly, the Indian team's inability to hold the ball in the final minutes was yet again highlighted and with a few more minutes on the clock, things could have gone awry for them.
Those blemishes apart, the Indians enjoyed a lot of freedom and space in the midfield with the Japanese rather slow to the ball and slack in marking.
Attacking from the start, the Indians forged ahead in the seventh minute when Sandeep converted the first penalty corner with a powerful drag-flick to the roof of the net. It was a good comeback for the specialist who had failed with six attempts against Argentina on Thursday.
The Japanese, however, in a rare moment of opportunism, equalised in the 12th minute when Katayama deflected a quickly taken free-hit by Kazuhiro Tsubouchi to the boards with the Indian defence caught flat-footed and unhappy with the free-hit decision.
India quickly put the equaliser behind them and looked to control the proceedings. Damandeep Singh nearly scored in the 17th minute as he deflected Prabhjot's pass, but goalkeeper Shunsuke Nagaoka palmed the attempt away.
The Japanese goal fell a second time in the 22nd minute when Prabhjot was on hand to flick home a rebound off Nagaoka who stopped Sandeep's penalty corner attempt.
Maintaining the pressure, India took a 3-1 lead past the 34th minute with Prabhjot driving the ball to net off Nagaoka's pads after receiving a pass from Bimal Lakra, who made a good run from the centre-line unchallenged.
With less than 30 seconds left to half-time, India were reduced to 10 players when Rajpal Singh was sent off with a yellow card suspension.
The first quarter of the second-half witnessed plenty of goalmouth action. India wasted two penalty corners with Kazuo Yoshida making a goal-line save off Dilip Tirkey's attempt off the second in the 44th.
Japan too forced a penalty corner in the 47th and Yamabori converted, but the Indians hit back in the very next minute as Dilip Tirkey found the boards from their sixth penalty corner with a direct hit to give his side a 4-2 advantage.