Donghae City (Korea): Navneet Kaur scored a hat-trick as India got off to a rollicking start with a 4-1 win over Japan in their opening match of the 5th Women's Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament on Sunday.
Young forward Navneet scored in the 7th, 25th and 55th minute while Anupa Barla (53rd) got the other goal for India at the Sunrise Stadium here.
The Indian team was dominant right from the start as it displayed well-strategised attack to break a strong Japanese defence. An early chance came by when forward Vandana Katariya and
Lilima Minz worked in tandem to create space in the striking circle.
Navneet picked up an assist from Vandana to send the ball past Korean goalkeeper to give defending champions India 1-0 lead in the 7th minute.
India played with speed, kept the ball possession and stayed consistent as they kept up the pressure on Japan. Good defence led by Skipper Sunita Lakra ensured Japan did not find too many chances in the circle.
Navneet showcased her abilities with the stick as she drove into the 25-yard mark and assisted experienced forward Vandana drive into the circle. Vandana's clever return of ball from the right flank to an unmarked Navneet at the top of the circle saw her score a splendid goal, doubling India's lead to 2-0 in the 25th minute.
India continued to keep up the momentum into the third quarter which was disrupted by rain. Three minutes into the third quarter, India won back-to-back penalty corners but both Deep Grace Ekka and Gurjit Kaur could not convert.
Japan too won three back-to-back PCs this quarter but could not beat the experienced India goalkeeper Savita.
India's third goal came off a brilliant assist by Udita to Anupa Barla beat the Korean defender to send the ball into the net with a fierce hit in the 53rd minute.
India's fourth goal came off a counterattack when Japan missed their opportunity to score off a PC in the 55th minute.
It was Navneet who was the in the thick of action yet again, taking the ball into India's half, passed it to Udita until she could position herself to strike the ball past Korean goalkeeper with ease.
Her significant effort in India's win saw her being awarded man of the match.
Though Aki Yamada scored a consolation goal for Japan in the 58th minute, it did little damage to India's feat.
"It was an important match to win because a good start always gives confidence to play better in the next matches to come. This is my first man-of-the-match award in an international arena, and I am very happy about it,' said an elated Navneet after the match.
"In the absence of our key striker Rani, there was more responsibility on us to create chances and I am happy that our team did really well. Our target is to win this tournament so that we can carry the winning spirit into the Women's World Cup."
On May 16, India take on a formidable China in their second Pool match.