Azlan Shah Cup hockey: Sardar Singh helps India survive Japan scare with a 2-1 win
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Skipper Sardar Singh's skills came to India's rescue on Wednesday as the Asian Games champions managed to avoid a scare and get away with a scratchy 2-1 win in their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup opener against Japan in Ipoh.
India, who are testing their reserves in the tournament in the form of defender Harmanpreet Singh, midfielder Harjeet Singh and goalkeeper Harjot Singh, found it hard to find the goal, largely due to their inefficient finishing that reflected in the chances missed by Ramandeep Singh.
Japan took a shocking lead in the 17th minute after a goal-less first quarter. On the first penalty corner of the match, Kenji Kitazato muscled his way past the goal-line to score the opening goal.
India picked up the pace, sprayed the ball around and earned a PC (25th min) for their efforts, which the young Harmanpreet converted to the right of Japanese goalkeeper to make it 1-1 at half-time.
Sardar came into his own from the third quarter onward, adding fluidity to the midfield which resulted in more circle penetrations by the Indian forwards. However, it required the Indian skipper to move into the circle himself and produce a deft reverse-flick about 7 yards from the goal.
The ball trickled into the goal to give India the decisive 2-1 lead.
India next take on Australia on Thursday at 1:35 p.m. IST.