Ordos (China): India squandered a golden opportunity to pick up full points and conceded a last-minute goal to draw 1-1 with Japan in their second match at the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament on Sunday.
After the power-packed 5-0 win over China in their tournament opener yesterday, the match against Japan turned out to be anti-climax for the Indians.
For India Gurwinder Singh Chandi (22nd minute) scored his second goal of the tournament while Naoto Shiokawa equalised for Japan in the 69th minute.
India now have four points from two matches while the Japanese, who had lost their opening encounter 2-3 against South Korea, have one in their kitty.
India will next play South Korea on Tuesday after a rest day on Monday.
Against Japan today, the Indians did all the hard work and should have won by a larger margin but for the errors committed by the forward line.
However, it was Japan which started strongly with three forwards raiding the Indian defence but young Rupinder Pal Singh and V Raghunath held firm.
Upfront, the India forwards did well but lacked cohesion. They attacked in groups of four-five players both from the middle as well as from the flanks, but lacked co-ordination inside the Japanese striking circle.
For the first 15 minutes, neither side could make much headway as both the teams tried to wrest control on the midfield.
India`s first scoring chance came in the 16th minute but an unmarked Gurwinder lost control of the ball inside the Japanese circle.
From there on, the Indians kept attacking looking desperately to open the scoring and finally succeeded in the 22nd minute through Gurwinder.
Gurwinder scored from a rebound after Roshan Minz`s initial shot was blocked by Japanese goalkeeper Katsuya Takase.
A few minutes later, India got their first penalty corner of the match but it went abegging as Ravi Pal failed to trap the ball.
The Indians were also done in by their tendency tendency to hang onto the ball for long, giving the Japanese the chance to fall back.
Just a minute before the breather, India earned their second penalty corner but to no use as Ravi Pal once again faltered in trapping the ball cleanly.
After the change of ends, Japan looked a completely different side as they came out all guns blazing in search of the equaliser and forced as many as three saves from the Indian defenders.
In the 47th minute, Rupinder Pal Singh came up with a fine save and then cleared for Yuvraj Walmiki, who sent a fantastic through ball for Roshan Minz inside the Japanese striking circle.
But Minz`s shot went wide with only Japanese goalkeeper Takase to beat.
Soon after, the Indians were down to 10 men as Rupinder was shown a yellow card for an infringement.
But to everyone`s astonishment, India went on the defensive midway through the second half, which inspired Japan to launch a full-blown offence on the rival citadel.
India custodian PR Sreejesh also came to his side`s rescue on more than one occasion. He played his part by bringing off two brilliant saves to ensure India`s 1-0 lead.
The consistent pressure on the rival defence saw Japan earn their first penalty corner of the match in the 59th minute but once again an in-form Sreejesh came to India`s rescue by keeping out the powerful flick.
India then launched a counter-attack which led to their third penalty corner but Rupinder Pal Singh`s powerful flick was saved by a Takase.
A brilliant Takase was yet again in the thick of things when he denied Danish Mujtaba in the 63rd minute.
Sreejesh was equally upto the task pulling off two more brilliant saves from Japan`s two successive penalty corners in the 66th and 67th.
Japan`s consistent pressure finally paid off when Shiokawa scored the equaliser from almost zero angle just a minute before the hooter.