India registered back-to-back victories at the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament after beating Japan 3-1 on Friday. The Men in Blue had earlier defeated China 4-0 on Thursday.
VR Raghunath yet again scored a brace as defending champions India fought hard to post a win over a fighting Japan.
On a hot day in Doha, Qatar, India did not start too well as Japan took most of the initial honours. The Japanese got two successive penalty corners in the 17th minute but could not convert.
Despite territorial dominance, India could not move the scoreboard well due to poor shooting and soft attempts at goal. It took 22 minutes for the Indians to break the logjam.
India then had a PC of their own when Gurvinder Singh Chandi and Birendra Lakra's move led to a risen ball by the Japanese defenders. VR Raghunath then struck his third goal of the tournament to give India the lead in 23rd minute.
The game then went on pedestrian note as there were no clear chances. Skipper Sardar Singh though was absolutely brilliant as always and gathered much applause.
India then got a shock in the 44th minute when SV Sunil was stretchered off the field after being hit in a tackle. May be that hurt their confidence and in turn Japan got some luck of their own. Japan equalised through Koji Kayukawa (50th min) via a penalty stroke.
Stung India though struck back immediately with Chandi and took the lead once again. Men in Blue then added another in the 60th minute with a penalty corner conversion again by none other than Raghunath.
Japan goalkeeper Akira Morishima had an outstanding performance under the cage today and made the task of India very difficult.
India took Japan easily in the first half and when showed enormous urgency in the second half, it got the dividends.
Japan pressed hard and earner a penalty corner late after Raghunath's error. The defender took it upon himself and saved that with a courageous effort to give India a hard earned victory over Japan.
Indian chief coach Michael Nobbs praised the Japanese for the good fight they put up.
"They played really very well. Our defense was holding on to the ball for too long. We have to work on that, we don't play that way, that's not our style," the Australian said.
"We committed a lot of silly mistakes, it costed us. In fact we should have got 4, 5, goals more. I think we played easy," Nobbs added.
India next play Oman on Sunday. Pakistan beat Oman 8-3 in their first match.
Nobbs also disputed the award of stroke to the Japanese side, helping the rivals to equalise.
"Not much to say about umpiring. The stroke was not a correct one. The umpiring is really poor standard, the stroke wasn't a correct one. Injuries will be there in the tournament, today Sunil got injured. It will be a very tough game against Malaysia," he said.
The losing team coach Kang Keon Wook too praised his team."They stuck to the plan. India's strength was penalty corner, they proved it again," he said.
(With PTI inputs)