Azlan Shah: India beat Japan 2-0 in opener

Ipoh (Malaysia): The Indian men’s hockey team started their 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup campaign on a positive note as they defeated Asian Games champions Japan 2-0 here on Saturday.

It was the team’s resilient attack, structured defence and solid effort in the midfield that ensured India remained dominant through the match.

After getting off to a goalless first quarter, India seemed to shake of the opening match jitters to take control of the proceedings. With good ball possession, they sought the right opportunity to make an early breakthrough.

Eight minutes into the second quarter, India won a penalty corner and Varun Kumar stepped up to capitalize with a powerful, direct flick. The 1-0 lead in the 24th minute put India in good stead and mounted pressure on Japan.

The third quarter saw Japan make amends for a below-par start as they got their first penalty corner in the 33rd minute. But experienced goalkeeper PR Sreejesh did well to save and clear the ball ensuring that India remained in the lead.

The following minutes saw both India and Japan create scoring opportunities but in vain. With two minutes remaining for the third hooter, Japanese striker Kenji Kitazato took a brave shot on goal but missed the post by a big margin. Off a rebound, Kazuma Murata struck the ball towards the post but it went over it.

Simranjeet Singh found the back of the net in the 55th minute that put India ahead by 2-0. With just two minutes remaining, Japan created a penalty corner but the attempt was well-defended by Surender Kumar backed by goalkeeper Krishan Pathak, who replaced Sreejesh after half-time.

Varun was adjudged the Man of the Match. India will next take on Korea on Sunday.