TOKYO, July 30: Striker Gurjant Singh was twice on target as India comfortably outclassed hosts Japan 5-3 on Friday to complete their pool proceedings with four victories after having already sealed a quarter-final berth in the ongoing Olympics.
Apart from Gurjant (17th, 56th), Harmanpreet Singh (13th), Shamsher Singh (34th) and Nilakanta Sharma (51st) scored for India to hand the eight-time Olympic champions their third consecutive win in Pool A at the Oi Hockey Stadium.
Kenta Tanaka (19th), Kota Watanabe (33rd) and Kazuma Murata (59th) were the goal getters for Japan, who were already knocked out of the last-eight race ahead of Friday’s tie.
By virtue of this win, India finished second in Pool A behind Australia with four victories out of five matches.
The Kookaburras ended their pool engagements on top with four wins and a draw.
India’s lone defeat — a 1-7 drubbing — came at the hands of Australia.
The top four teams from each pool of six qualify for the quarterfinals.
Looking to keep their winning run intact, the Indians went on the offensive from the beginning and penetrated the Japanese attacking third on several occasions.
Despite exerting continuous pressure on the Japanese defence, the Indians couldn’t manage a clear shot at the goal in the first 10 minutes of the match.
In fact, it was Japan who had the first scoring chance but Tanaka’s shot just went wide.
Soon India secured their first penalty corner and Harmanpreet made no mistake in giving his side the lead.
Simranjeet Singh and Gurjant had a good match upfront as they combined well but the latter’s effort from close range was kept away by Japan goalkeeper Koji Yamasaki.
India doubled their lead two minutes into the second quarter when Simranjeet and Gurjant again combined well to create the opportunity.
It was Simranjeet who created the move. Although his initial shot was saved by Yamasaki, he got the ball again in front of his stick and did enough to pass it on to Gurjant who tapped it in from close range to double India’s lead.
But two minutes later, Japan pulled a goal back, courtesy a defensive lapse from veteran Birender Lakra, who failed to control a pass and the ball in front of Tanaka, who managed to dodge the defender and slot the ball in with a powerful shot past India custodian P R Sreejesh.
While India dominated the proceedings in terms of possession and circle penetration, the nippy Japanese caught India off guard with a counter attack just three minutes after the change of ends and Watanabe scored to restore parity.
But Japan’s joy was shortlived as India restored their lead just a minute later when Shamsher deflected in Nilakanta’s pass.
India secured their second penalty corner in the third quarter but Harmanpreet failed to execute the chance this time.
Minutes into the fourth quarter, Lalit Upadhyay was denied by an alert Japan goalkeeper Yamasaki.
India extended their lead soon when Harmanpreet found Surender Kumar on the left flank with an inch perfect aerial ball and Nilakanta was at the right place at the right time to deflect in the defender’s cross.
India secured another penalty corner soon but Japan defence was up to the mark to deny Harmanpreet again.
Japan then earned their first penalty corner of the match but Takashi Yoshikawa failed to get past Sreejesh in front of the Indian goal.
India made the scoreline 5-2 when Gurjant scored from a variation from his side’s fourth penalty corner.
Another defensive error allowed Japan to reduce the margin just a minute from the final hooter through Murata.
Australia vs Netherlands (August 1)
Germany vs Argentina (August 1)
India vs Great Britain (August 1)
Belgium vs Spain (August 1)
Navneet Kaur’s late winner helps India Hockey team edge past Ireland to keep Olympic hopes alive
Navneet Kaur scored a late winner as the Indian women’s hockey team kept its quarterfinals hopes alive in the Olympics with a 1-0 win over Ireland in a must-win penultimate pool match, on Friday. After goal-less three quarters, which India completely dominated but failed to breach the Irish defence led by goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran, Navneet finally found the back of the net in the 57th minute to bring smiles on the Indian faces. Needing a win to keep their hopes alive after three consecutive losses, India had to wait anxiously for 57 minutes despite being the dominant team on display and creating innumerable scoring opportunities.
India had chances galore from the opening whistle and got as many as 14 penalty corners but failed to utilise even a single one of them. But a moment of brilliance from skipper Rani Rampal, who created the opportunity for Navneet, rescued India from an early exit from the Games.
Navneet was at the right place at the right time to tap the ball in. India will now need to win their final Pool A match against South Africa on Saturday and hope for Ireland to face defeat at the hands of Great Britain to seal their quarterfinal berth.
The top four teams from each pool qualify for the knockout stage.
India started aggressively and penetrated the Ireland circle innumerable times but, as has been the case in the tournament so far, the forward line lacked finishing. While India dominated the first two quarters, they failed to convert their dominance into goals.
India’s dominance can be gauged from the fact that they earned as many 10 penalty corners in the first two quarters but wasted all. India got their first first penalty corner in the eight minute and two minutes later they secured two more set pieces after Navneet’s reverse shot was saved by Ireland goalkeeper McFerran.
India got two penalty corners a minute from the end of first quarter but the script was the same. Ireland came out attacking in the second quarter and dominated the early exchanges of the session. They secured a penalty corner in the 18th minute which yielded no result.
In the 22nd minute, Lalremsiami was denied by an onrushing McFerran from one-on-one situation. Ireland had two chances in the second quarter — first in the form of a penalty corner and then from open play — but on both occasion India goalkeeper Savita came to her side’s rescue.
India’s frustrating wait continued as a minute before half time they wasted as many as five penalty corners. Soon after the change of ends India got three more penalty corners but the finishing was lacking.
Minutes later, Ireland got a penalty corner which India defended stoutly. In the 39th minute, Sharmila Devi made a brilliant solo run from the midfield and upon entering the circle tried a reverse stick hit which was kept away by McFerran.
India secured their 14th and final penalty corner soon but again made a mess of the chance. But the Indians didn’t give up and continued to attack and minutes from the final, Navneet saved her side from early elimination, much to the relief of chief coach Sjoerd Marijne. (PTI)