Bhubanewsar, 07 May 2015: After leading the four-match Test Series by 1-0, India outplayed Japan by 2-1 in the third match and won the series by 2-0. Penalty corner specialist VR Raghunath converted another corner with an ease whereas Akashdeep Singh displayed a brilliant stick-work when he scored the second goal for his team. After a tough fight Japan’s Hirotaka Wakari scored the lone goal for his team.
In the first quarter of the match, it was Japan who attacked first from the left flank and pressurised the Indian players. They continued with their long passes and kept the Indian players busy through-out the quarter. But they faced a tough defence from Birendra Lakra, K Chinglensana and VR Raghunath, who foiled Japanese attacks. Very soon Indian players charged back on the Japanese side led by Sardar Singh and with the help of their short passes, they manage to sneak into Japanese D in few occasions. However, they could not give perfect finishes to their passes and by the end of the quarter, the score-line was 0-0.
In the 2nd quarter, both the teams came on the field with more aggression and fought harder to create chances. In the 19th minute, Japan’s Tomonori Ono ran through the left flank where the captain found his fellow team-mate Hiroki Sakamoto in the circle, who took a reverse shot but that was nicely blocked stand-in-keeper Harjot SIngh. India charged back with series of counter attacks with the help of VR Raghunath and young Yuvraj Walmiki and kept the ball in the Japan’s half. In the last minute, Japan made a counter-attack and they entered in the Indian circle but Lakra again thwarted their attack again. In the 30th minute, India earned their first penalty corner after a quick attack. Dharamvir Singh pushed the ball in and Raghunath dragged it on the right of the Japanese goalie Suguru Shimmoto, who tried to stop it with his right hand but the ball reflected and went into the net. With this brilliant conversion, India took the early lead of 1-0 by the end of 2nd quarter.
In the 3rd quarter, India stepped on the field with more aggression and played an attacking game from the very first minute. On the other hand, Japanese played with a plan of marking each player. For India, Sardar Singh played very deep today and co-ordinating with the defenders and midfielders through-out the match. In the 36th minute, Akashdeep Singh ran with the ball, dribbling past the Japanese defenders and hit the ball towards the bar, which beat the Japanese keeper for the second goal for India. It was spectacular goal from Akashdeep who single-handedly scored the goal and extended the lead to 2-0. However, the joy was short-lived as Japanese counter-attacked on Indian side and managed to earn a penalty corner in the 44th minute, which was perfectly converted by Hirotaka Wakari. With this crucial goal, Japan reduced the margin by 1-2 by the end of the 3rd quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Japanese charged back on the Indian side with long passes and pushed the Indian players back to their half. Japan continued their attack and managed to reach near the Indian circle but Lakra was defending his area like a wall. In the 50th minute, India earned a penalty corner after a counter-attack. Sardar pushed in and young Harmanpreet dragged a powerful shot but it was saved by the Japanese goalie. Both the team fought neck-to-neck and tried harder to create more chances in the dying minutes. India took the ball near the goal-mouth in many occasions but they faced a stiff Japanese defence. Both the teams battled hard till the last minute but failed to convert opportunities in goals. The match was eventually finished with 2-1 score-line and India won the series with 2-0 with a match to spare.