IPOH: Japan briefly threatened to pull off the upset of the tournament before going down to India at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup on Wednesday. They blew leads of 2-1 and 3-2 before their inexperience and tired legs meant they conceded two goals in the final quarter to go down 3-4. For India, Mandeep Singh did the start turn with a hat-trick.
Indian have seven points from four games and are in second spot, just ahead of Great Britain on goals scored and New Zealand on goal difference. The match itself was often chaotic with an aggressive India losing their bearings as Japan counter-attacked with astonishing efficiency. Roelant Oltmans conceded they had to change things at half-time. “We changed tactics and immediately scored after that. But they scored again and that meant we had to alter our tactics. It all worked out in the end.”
Thanks in no small part to Mandeep who is establishing himself as a premier fox in the box. His first goal was a case in point. A hail mary pass from Harmanpreet Singh from near the half line was going out of its way to avoid all contact. That was before slick stick work from Mandeep as he diverted the ball between the post and goalkeeper. Having been around for a long time, he is finally living up to his promise and is the tournament’s joint top-scorer with five goals.
While Australia have virtually assured themselves of a place in the final, the battle for second spot will go down to the wire. India, who will play the hosts in the last group game, will play in the final as long as they beat them, provided New Zealand and GB draw. If that match sees a winner, calculators will be pressed into service.