Jakarta, June 1 (UNI): Rajkumar Pal’s early goal in the first quarter helped India beat Japan 1-0 to win a bronze medal at the Hockey Asia Cup here on Wednesday.
Skipper Birendra Lakra was declared man of the match in the bronze medal playoff. This was India’s 10th medal from the 11 editions of the continental meet held so far.
India emerged champions in 2003, 2007 and 2017, and have finished runners-up on five occasions while winning the bronze medal twice.
India started off with high intensity but failed to convert two early penalty corners. Midfielder Rajkumar then opened the scoring in the 6th minute after receiving a perfect pass from Uttam Singh.
Japan started pressing hard in the second quarter to score a equaliser but the Birendra Lakra-led side cramped the Japanese forwards for space.
Japan won two penalty corners but failed to convert as well. India tried to double their lead in the end of the second quarter with Karthi Selvam drawing out the Japanese goalkeeper. However, Selvam could not convert the opportunity.
India man-marked Japanese forwards in the third-half and defended strongly on both flanks in the first nine minutes. The Japanese team then earned their third penalty corner of the game which was driven wide by a Japanese drag-flicker.
India tried to score their second goal through a counter-attack but Rajkumar’s strike went over the top of the goal post.
The final 15 minutes of play saw Japanese players press forward and earn a penalty corner in the 48th minute. Indian rushers, however, bravely defended off the Japanese drag-flickers to protect the slender one-goal lead.
India were reduced to 10-men for the last four minutes with Pawan Rajbhar shown a green card for an infringement and then Manjeet getting a yellow for blocking Japanese free-hits.
India, however, played out the final minutes of the match safely to secure the bronze.
India, who entered the tournament as defending champions, failed to make the final of the Asia Cup after playing out a thrilling 4-4 draw against South Korea in the last Super 4s match on Tuesday.
After the draw against South Korea — Malaysia, India and South Korea – ended the Super 4s with five points each.
India, however, could not progress to final because of their lower goal difference of +1 compared to South Korea (+2) and Malaysia (+5).