After a loss to defending champions Australia in their last match, India redeemed themselves with a 4-3 victory over Japan thanks to Mandeep Singh's brilliant hat-trick in a round-robin tie of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia, on Wednesday. Having squandered the early lead provided by a penalty corner conversion from Rupinderpal Singh, India were trailing when Mandeep got into his goal-scoring act in the second half. It needed two goals from Mandeep in the last 10 minutes to help India avoid a stunning loss.
Neutralising India's early lead through Kazuma Murata's fine deflection in the 10th minute, Japan led twice in the game with goals coming from Heita Yoshihara (43rd) and Genki Mitani (45th), but they could not overcome Mandeep's brilliance.
Mandeep got into the goal-scoring act with a fine touch on a through ball from Harmanpreet Singh in the 45th minute. He then came back to tap in a square ball from Sardar Singh in the 51st minute and then ensured three points for India by capitalising on a diagonal ball from Rupinderpal in the 58th minute.
Mandeep's three goals kept India's challenge alive in the six-nation tournament, taking them to seven points from four matches.
The win gave India a chance of making the second successive final in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup after having finished runners-up behind Australia last year.
Injured Sreejesh Ruled Out Of Sultan Azlan Shah Cup
India captain and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh was ruled out of the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament due to a knee injury he sustained in the match against defending champions Australia. Sreejesh has a painful right knee due to a ligament injury that generally takes two to three months to heal.
"His injury won't allow him to play anymore in the tournament. He needs further investigation when we get back to India," India coach Roelant Oltmans said. "We'll try and get him back to India as soon as possible to make sure he gets the investigations done there and, if needed, further treatment. There will be no replacement goalkeeper in Sreejesh's place. Replacements are not allowed in this tournament."
(With PTI inputs)