Sunday, February 5, 2023

Asia Cup Hockey: Sloppy India lose to Japan 2-5

Profligacy in front of the goal, disciplinary issues right through the 60 minutes and defensive blunders cost India dear as the experimental side lost 5-2 to Japan in their second game of the Asia Cup in Jakarta on Tuesday.
The defeat severely dents India’s hopes of qualifying for the second round as their fate is no longer in their hands, Indian Express reported. Even if they beat Indonesia in their final group game on Thursday, India – currently placed third in the four-team pool with one point – will have to hope that Japan (6 points) beat Pakistan (4) in the other match to finish second.
The two group winners and runner-ups will advance to the second round, where each team will play one another in a round-robin format, with the top two teams advancing to the finals while the third and fourth place teams competing for the bronze medal.
More importantly, however, the four teams that advance to the next round will qualify for next January’s World Cup. For India, that does not matter. As hosts – the World Cup will be held in Bhubaneswar and Rourkela – the team has earned a direct spot. So, Hockey India used this tournament to test the bench strength.
However, coached by BJ Kariappa and Sardar Singh, the inexperienced side – which saw 10 players making their debuts in the 1-1 draw against Pakistan on Monday – has lacked coordination and discipline.
This was evident against Japan on Tuesday. While India played within their structure in the opening quarter, barely giving Japan any space, the wheels started to come off in the second period onwards.
Ken Nagayoshi (24’), Kosei Kawabe (40’, 56’), Ryomi Ooka (49’) and Koji Yamasaki (54’) scored for Japan while Pawan Rajbhar (45’) and Uttam Singh (50’) were on the target for India. The young Indian side showed character by trying to stage a comeback twice – once after going 2-0 down to make it 2-1 and then after Japan restored their two-goal lead again by going 3-1 up, Uttam scored a fine goal to reduce the deficit.
However, their wastefulness in the final third and constant cards being shown to the players meant India never really could pose any threat. This was especially the case after India made it 3-2. When the team should ideally have put Japan under pressure by going all out in search of the equaliser, two players, Rajbhar and Karthi Selvam were given temporary suspensions for committing silly fouls. This meant India were reduced to just 8 outfield players against Japan’s full quota of 10. And the Asian Games gold medalists, who had triumphed at this venue four years ago, made the most of the numerical advantage.
Japan repeatedly used the right flank to launch their attacks and were rewarded with two goals, which put the result beyond any doubt.
Captain Birendra Lakra, who hasn’t really impressed upon his comeback, said losing the two men ‘had an effect’ on the outcome of the match. “First two quarters were very tough because we didn’t get into any rhythm. We got better in the last two quarters but didn’t create many chances,” said Lakra. “In the final quarter, we lost our defensive structure and conceded a couple of goals. Also, we lost two men and that had an effect.”

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