Hamilton: India moved past Japan 4-2 to remain unbeaten in the second leg of the Four Nations Invitational Hockey Tournament at the Gallagher Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.
India will next play World No.3 Belgium in the final on Sunday. The 2016 Olympic silver medallists beat hosts New Zealand 4-0 to enter the final. India overcame the Japanese challenge with late goals by Mandeep Singh (58th minute) and Ramandeep Singh (58th) to win. The other goal scorers for India were Vivek Sagar Prasad (12th) and Varun Kumar (30th). Seren Tanaka (14th) and Shota Yamada (43rd) scored for Japan, who will face New Zealand in the third-place match. Coming into the match against Japan with stunning victories against New Zealand (3-2) and Belgium (5-4), India started well, keeping the ball for most part of the first quarter and came up with accurate passes to make their way into the Japanese striking circle.
The team drew first blood when Harjeet Singh dribbled through the midfield to find forward Arman Qureshi who then beautifully assisted Prasad. The latter dived to guide the ball in with 12 minutes played. Prasad has been impressive in this tour, creating scoring opportunities for India and even has two goals from his debut match in Tauranga to his credit. India were slightly dodgy the next few minutes after scoring the goal as they gave up possession and were punished when Japan broke into a quick counter, paving way through the left flank. It was Tanaka who drove into the Indian circle, beating the defenders to strike the ball into India's goal for the equaliser.
While India built on their game in the second quarter, Japan kept fighting back trying to defend with all their might. But an error while defending forced them to concede a penalty corner when Varun Kumar's strong pass sliced through the Japanese circle and forward Lalit Upadhyay forced a foot foul. Though the variation did not fetch a goal, India won another penalty corner after forcing another foul. It was Varun who stepped up for the drag-flick this time and executed it brilliantly to take 2-1 lead. Both teams traded penalty corners at the start of the third quarter. Harmanpreet Singh's flick was well-saved by Japanese goal keeper Takashi Yoshikawa. Japan won a penalty corner in the following minutes but couldn't make much of the opportunity.
In the following counter, Prasad attempted a reverse hit but was thwarted by keeper. Japan, however, levelled in the 43rd minute as Yamada used a smart penalty corner variation to caught Indian goalkeeper Krishan Pathak off-guard. Japan did well the next quarter, cutting down the space, making India work hard to find opportunities. Japan had a great chance to take a 3-2 lead when they were awarded a penalty stroke after Indian infringement but Yamada's flick was wide off target. For India, Harjeet created another great opportunity to score when he picked up a quick pass by skipper Manpreet Singh to turn around, beat the Japanese defender on top of the circle. His cross was deflected in by Mandeep in the 58th minute. India made a good finish with Ramandeep scoring the fourth goal beautifully worked out from the top of the circle ending the match with 4-2 scoreline.