India beat Japan 3-0 in Champ's Challenge

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> India beat an overly defensive Japan 3-0 to remain in the hunt for a place in the final of the Champions Challenge Hockey Tournament in Kuala Lumpur.

Updated: February 25, 2007 08:37 IST
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Kuala Lumpur:

India beat an overly defensive Japan 3-0 to remain in the hunt for a place in the final of the Champions Challenge Hockey Tournament here today. Deepak Thakur (2) and Prabhjot Singh were the scorers as India took its tally to seven points. They now have to beat Argentina tomorrow to remain in the hunt for a place in the final. Four teams - India, Malaysia, South Africa and Argentina - are still in the race to enter the final. It could go down to goal-difference and that is where India enjoy an advantage getting three goals against Japan. Happy with the team's performance coach Cedric D'Souza said he was confident that India would beat Argentina tomorrow and reach the final. "The first half was a bit scrappy but in the second half the boys came together and played a good game," Cedric said. Japan knew their chances were on counter-attacks and they defended with eight men keeping two upfront for the break. India tried their best to breach the Japanese wall but failed as Baljit Dhillon, Dhanraj Pillay, Gagan Ajit Singh and Deepak Thakur were thwarted by the Japanese. India's problems were compounded by the fact that the midfield comprising Vikram Pillay and Thirumalvalvan were just not in the game. Having fully recovered from a fever, Sabu Varkey and Kanwalpreet Singh played today. India earned their first penalty corner in the 11th minute but Jugraj's strike was disallowed citing that ball wasn't stopped cleanly on the push. India, finally got the lead in the 35th minute off the second penalty corner. Dhillon passed to Deepak whose shot ballooned into the goal. India were again in for a shock as umpire Antonio Bustos first signaled for another penalty corner but then saw the ball going in and allowed the goal much to their relief. At the break, India led 1-0. Immediately on resumption, Arjun Halappa had a clear look at the goal but his shot was well saved by Japanese goalkeeper Jun Takahashi. Three minutes later, India had another golden chance when Halappa's cross was right on target but both Dhanraj and Prabhjot failed to connect. But in the 41st minute, Dhanraj and Prabhjot made up for the earlier mistake by scoring India's second goal. From the midfield, Sukhbir Singh Gill scooped the ball for Dhanraj who raced into the circle and sent a superb pass to Prabhjot Singh who made no mistake. Japan fought back towards the middle of the second half forcing two penalty corners but both were wasted with wayward attempts. Following the break, after the second penalty corner, Baljit Dhillon sprinted all the way but his rasping shot on the run from inside the circle was well-saved by the goalkeeper. With around five minutes left for the hooter, India opened up from the defence, sending long scoops to the forwards. One such effort by Lazarus Barla found Deepak Thakur who raced in with Dhanraj overlapping. Thakur let off a firm drive, which was deflected in by defender Atsushi Takehara who came to clear the danger. With hardly two minutes left, another scoop found Deepak who again sped in and found Gagan who attempted a lunging volley but it went over the goal. In the end, Japan got their third penalty corner but couldn't convert as Dhanraj ran out to clear the ball before the shot was taken. (PTI)

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