Muscat: India registered their third consecutive win of the Asian Champions Trophy, trouncing Asian Games gold medallists, Japan, 9-0 in a round-robin fixture in Muscat on Sunday.
The World No 5 team dominated proceedings from the start and scored goals in all the four quarters through Mandeep Singh (4', 49', 57'), Harmanpreet Singh (17', 21'), Gurjant Singh (8'), Akashdeep Singh (36'), Sumit (42') and Lalit Upadhyay (45') to register a convincing victory and remain at the top of the Pool Standings.
The Indian team, riding high on confidence after their 3-1 victory against Pakistan on Saturday, got off a good start as Forwards Lalit Upadhyay and Akashdeep Singh had chances in the opening few minutes, but it was Mandeep Singh who scored the opener for India in the 4th minute as he deflected Akashdeep Singh's vicious low cross from the left flank, through the Japanese Goalkeeper's leg and into the back of the net.
India's dominance in the opening period saw them win their first Penalty Corner in the 8th minute, which was taken by Harmanpreet Singh and resulted in a goal for Gurjant Singh. Harmanpreet struck the ball in the centre of goal, forcing Takashi Yoshikawa to save the ball through his body, but the ball fell to Gurjant Singh, who pushed it into the back of the net to make it 2-0.
The Indian team continued to dominate the match in the second quarter which saw them win a Penalty Stroke in the 17th minute as Varun Kumar's execution of a Penalty Corner was saved by Japan's Goalkeeper Yusuke Takano but fell kindly to Manpreet Singh, whose shot was intercepted on the line by the head of a Japanese defender. It was Harmanpreet Singh who kept his composure to stroke the ball crisply towards the right of Takano to give India a three-goal advantage.
The goal-scorer was in action again in the 21st minute as he drilled in a penalty corner towards the right side of goal, beating the Japanese defenders and scoring his second goal of the match. It was a difficult match for the World No. 16 Japanese team as they struggled to put pressure on the Indians, and had to go into the half-time break trailing by four goals.
The third quarter started with both the teams trying to create chances, but it was India who maintained their upper hand as they scored a fifth goal six minutes after restart which was scored by Akashdeep Singh. The following minutes saw India play with 10-men as Forward Dilpreet Singh was awarded a Yellow Card for pushing a Japanese player, but the World No 5 team showcased their quality by scoring twice through Sumit (42') and Lalit Upadhyay (45').
First, it was Kothajit Singh who found himself free on the left side of the circle, and struck a fierce shot which was cleverly deflected by Sumit to put it in between the Goalkeeper's legs. While Lalit Upadhyay scored his first of the match with just one second left on the clock as he was found at the edge of the circle by a low drilled cross from the right flank, and did well to wriggle and create space to score India's seventh goal.
India continued to put pressure on the Japanese defence in the last quarter as they scored in the 49th minute through a Penalty Corner in which the defending Champions tried a variation. It was Harmanpreet Singh who played a brilliant back-door pass to Varun Kumar, whose slider pass to Mandeep Singh was put in the back of the net on the second attempt by the striker.
On the other end of the field, Japan had a chance to open their account in the 53rd minute as they won themselves a Penalty Corner, but the resulting strike was wide of the target as India continued to test the Japanese defence.
Forward Mandeep Singh was in action again in the 57th minute as he completed his hat-trick by deflecting Manpreet Singh's hard and low pass across goal into the back of the net to secure a 9-0 victory for the Indian team.
Now, the Indian men's hockey team will play their fourth round robin match against Malaysia on October 23.(UNI)