Chennai:India marched to the final with an authoritative 4-1 victory over a fighting Japan in the second semifinal of the 7th BSNL Asia cup in Chennai on Saturday.
India, who won their sixth straight match in the current tournament, now face Asian Games Champions Korea in the final to retain the title and also to gain vital ranking points in their quest for a Beijing Olympic berth.
Earlier, in the first semi final, Korea survived some anxious moments before downing Malaysia 2-1
Prabjot Singh (two), Shivendra Singh and Roshan Minz were successful for India, while captain and penalty corner specialist yamabori Takahiko scored the lone goal for Japan.
The defending champions, who led 2-0 at half-time, put up another sterling performance as they dominated the proceedings throughout with a near capacity crowd giving them support.
The Indians were far ahead showing cohesiveness in attack using both flanks. Being marked fully, the hosts were unable to split the crowded midfield every time, but continued to perform well for openings. After Japan wasted a penalty corner in the fifth minute, India showed superior play in the next ten minutes.
In fact, Rahunath and Shivendra Singh dazzled with their artistic dribbling, dodging past at least four defenders on their way to the goal area, but finally failed to beat goal keeper Nagakoa Shunsuke. The hosts almost scored in the 19th minute, but wasted their first penalty corner with Sunil being the culprit failing with the rebound after Dilip Tirkey faked and Sardar Singh's shot was palmed away by Shunsuke.
India, being supported by almost a packed stadium including the campers of the Indian Cricket league headed by Chief Coach Balwinder Singh Sandhu, went into the lead in the 22nd minute.
Veteran Dilip Tirkey passed to Sunil, whose first time cross went to Shivendra Singh, whose zero angle grounder saw the ball go in straight to the left corner of the goal.
Intercepting a back pass by Ota Sho nearing the half line, Prabhjot Singh charged in like a panther, cut through two Japanese defenders and beat Shunsuke hands down (2-0) in the 23rd minute.
The remaining part of the half belonged to India as they kept the pressure up and forced two more penalty corners. But Dilip Tirkey's shot off the second penalty corner in the 28th
minute was off the mark while the other one in the dying minutes was saved by the Japanese custodian.
India, reduced to ten players in the 33rd minute when umpire Richmod Attipoe (Ghana) sent out Sardar Singh for an offence in the midfield, took the break with the 2-0 lead.
Asian Games Champions Korea survived some anxious moments before overcoming a fighting Malaysia 2-1 in the other semifinal.
In a thrilling semifinal match, the Asian powerhouse went into the lead through defender Oh Dae Keun, who deflected the ball in following a free hit taken by Korean star player, Jang Jong Hyun.
Malaysia found the equaliser in the 38th minute through Azion Misran. After a tough duel with the Malaysians, the Koreans scored the winner through Yoon Sung Hoon with ten minutes left before the final whistle.