Hockey India set off to a dual winning start to their Olympic Test event held in Tokyo. The men’s team faced the nemesis Malaysian side while the female counterparts had a tough outing against a resilient Japan side. Already having secured respective berths in the FIH Olympic qualifiers, scheduled to be held later this year, India started off as the favourites for the encounter.
The Indian Divas entered the field with an aim to edge past the hosts at the Oi Hockey stadium, early on Saturday morning before the Men’s team laced their boots against Malaysia. Playing with 16 players in accordance with the Olympic Games guidelines, the Women in Blue made an aggressive introduction into the competition, finding few goal scoring opportunities in the first 10 minutes of the game. Gurjit Kaur gave India an early lead in the 9th minute, as her powerful stroke off drag-flick beat the Japanese goalkeeper, Megumi Kageyama.
The hosts too reflected on the situation positively and took no time to find an equalizer in the 16th minute off Aki, which came in as a substitution. At the half-time with the scoreboard reflecting equal dominance with 1-1 in books of both India and Japan, it was understood that both had well understood each other’s tactic and a win demanded a special magic in the remainder of the match.
Third- quarter saw witnessed the same for the Indian Divas as Gurjit regained the advantage of 1 goal lead for her team as she guided the ball sail into the back of the net in the 35th minute. Japan showcased a dominant approach in the last few minutes of the game to seek an equalizer, but fell apart and failed to capitalize on the created chances as the Indian defence was at its top notch form in the closing stages.
The Indian Eves will move ahead in the competition with a positive approach & points in their kitty when they take on Australia on August 18, 2019 with an aim to turn-around the unwanted statistics of having managed a single win in their last 10 encounters.
Indian men’s squad had a huge task underlying to defend their favourites tag in the absence of few stalwarts – skipper Manpreet Singh & goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh who made their way out in order to make way for the youngsters. Harmanpreet led the Men in Blue against their Asian counterparts- Malaysia.
With 6 victories in the last 10 encounters registered in the books of Indian Hockey as compared to 3 by their opponents, Malaysia banked on their slightest chances to battle against Manpreet Singh less Indian side. Shamsher Singh and Ashis Topno made their respective debut today in the opener. Mandeep Singh made sure that the India not only get past their South-Asian rivals, but also make an early statement in the tournament through their dominating outing.
India had a mixture of bitter and sweet relationship with their opponents in play today, starting back in 2010 when Malaysia stunned India with a last minute goal at 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games SF edging the latter with a last minute goal in a 4-3 encounter. A dramatic 7-6 loss in the penalty shoot-out 8 years later, proved to be another agony on Indian Hockey as they went down in a similar fashion at the Asian Games. However, India extended their unbeaten run attained at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup, earlier this year (4-2) today, with a dominant and powerful victory of 6-0.
With a positive approach and points on board- Harmanpreet Singh & Rani Rampal led squads will face Newzealand & Australia tomorrow at IST 15:30 & IST 6:00 respectively.