Chennai: The Indian men's hockey team stormed into the final of the Asian Champions Trophy Chennai 2023 after a comprehensive 5-0 victory against reigning Asian Games Champions Japan in the semi-finals at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium, here on Friday.
Akashdeep Singh (19'), Harmanpreet Singh (23'), Mandeep Singh (30'), Sumit (39') and karthi Selvam (51') scored in India's win, putting the hosts in title contention against Malaysia who beat defending champions Korea 6-2 in the first semi final of the day.
Coming into the semi final clash after an important win against nemesis Pakistan in their previous match, table toppers India showed sublime form and intent to win right from the word go. They set off their attack with an early PC but didn't convert. The next few minutes were intensely fought with Japanese forwards Taiki Takade and Shota Yamada taking turns to find an opening in India's circle.
While the first quarter was goalless, India took control of the proceedings with a brilliant goal in the 19th minute. It was a combined effort by Hardik Singh and Sumit who assisted experienced striker Akashdeep Singh to score. The hosts were quick to double the lead when they won a PC in the 23rd minute and skipper Harmanpreet Singh continued to showcase his incredible form, hammering the ball to the right bottom of the post.
Before going into the half-time break, playmaker Manpreet Singh set up Mandeep Singh for a beautiful goal. All Mandeep had to do was get a faint touch at the end to put the ball past Japanese goalie Takumi Kitagawa. Leading comfortably with 3-0 on board, India surely looked like the better team in the clash with Japan unable to break India's defence line.
Meanwhile, India's midfielders continue to dominate play. It was Manpreet Singh, who was the cynosure of India's attack today, as he created one of the most attractive goals of the tournament as he set up Sumit at the baseline. The duo worked a classy move to take a formidable 4-0 lead as Sumit struck a fine reverse-stick to the corner post.
India gave no chances for the Japanese side to bounce back as they struck their fifth goal in the 51st minute. This time it was local star Karthi Selvam, who brought cheers to his fanbase in Chennai, as he scored a splendid field goal. Though Japan showed their desperation in the dying minutes, India’s assertive performance put themselves in title contention on Saturday.