BHUBANESWAR:Condemned for their face-saving 1-1 draw in the first test, hosts India put up a much improved performance in the second to register a convincing 2-0 win over lower-ranked Japan here at the Kalinga Stadium Hockey Complex on Tuesday.
The win enabled India to take a 1-0 lead in the four-test series. SK Uthappa drew first blood, scoring a field goal shortly before half-time and Dharamvir Singh capped the victory with another field goal in the 48th minute. The two sides will meet each other in the third test on Thursday.
But the way India started, it seemed they were not taking the match seriously. They lacked purpose. Much to the bemusement of the crowd, captain Sardar Singh and defender Birendra Lakra started off with silly mistakes in trapping easy passes.
India had a chance to take the lead in the sixth minute but Yuvraj Walmiki could not connect from a close range cross. Japan’s immediate counter attack also failed to bear fruit. The first quarter was a dull and drab affair as both sides failed to earn a penalty corner.
India won their first penalty corner in the 21st minute but it went a-begging as V Raghunath’s drag flick was saved by a defender. The home team averted a crisis six minutes later as the visitors’ first penalty corner was valiantly saved by goalkeeper PR Sreejesh.
India counter attacked immediately, but Sardar’s through pass could not be converted by Walmiki despite him being in a one-on-one situation. However, India finally took the lead when Uthappa tapped home an easy goal in the 27th minute. Fired up, India dominated proceedings till the end, showing impressive skill, coordination and confidence. It was Dharamvir, who orchestrated the transformation with his speed and aggression.
After Gurbaj Singh squandered a scoring opportunity by failing to beat the opposition goalkeeper from handshaking distance in the 42nd minute, Dharamvir sealed the match in favour of the hosts with an opportunistic strike. Capitalising on a faulty clearance by Japan goalkeeper Suguru Shimmoto, the Indian forward latched on to the stray ball and tapped it home.
Though Japan earned their second penalty corner in the 53nd minute due to a dangerous clearance by Sreejesh, it proved in vain. With two minutes to go for the hooter, Ramandeep Singh missed a field goal by shooting over the post.