India have started their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup campaign with a win against Japan, the score reading 2-1 in Ipoh, Malaysia. Sardar Singh and Harmanpreet Singh scored a goal each for India after Japan took lead in the 17th minute via Kenji's penalty corner strike.
Though India might have defeated Japan in the opening encounter, they need to improve their overall play, with Sardar's men set to take on Australia and other quality teams in the competition.
Not much transpired in the first quarter of the game for both teams, but some of the India players did not look comfortable on the ball, failing to control it on a few occasions.
After the first quarter came to an end at 0-0, both teams came in pumped, and it was Japan who were awarded the first penalty corner of the game, which was brilliantly converted by Kenji in the 17th minute. Japan received another penalty corner in the next few minutes, but failed to convert, with the ball going over the crossbar.
India drew level after some time as much-talked-about young drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh, who was one of the notable players against Japan, slotted the ball into the back of the net. The goal gave India much-needed confidence, and they began to up the tempo and attack Japan. However, India could not take lead despite their dominance and SV Sunil's brilliant skills in the second quarter.
Though India dominated the first half, Japan defended really well to allow India only one goal, but Sardar Singh and his men came out all guns blazing in the second half. They got off to a great start, with Sardar scoring a field goal in the 31st minute. India had penetrated the circle quite easily to score the goal.
India's performance was much better in the half as they made fewer errors and their forwards, like Ramandeep Singh, showed some fine skills with the stick. Japan were not giving up, and were looking for the elusive equaliser, which would have been a huge disappointment for India.
India got two more penalty corners in the dying minutes of the game, but Rupinder Pal Singh failed to score on both counts.
India face Australia Thursday, and need to be on top of their game to defeat the Aussies, who are favourites to clinch the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup.