Defending champions India survived a scare before eventually beating Asian Games gold-medallist Japan 3-2 in the second semi-final to set up a mouth-watering final clash against Pakistan in the Hockey Asian Champions Trophy tournament in Muscat on Saturday.
Earlier in the first semi-final, Pakistan defeated Malaysia 3-1 in the shoot-out after a thrilling 4-4 draw in 60 minutes of the play.
Gurjant Singh (19th minute), Chinglensana (44) and Dilpreet Singh (55) scored for India, while Hirotaka Wakuri(22) and Hirotaka Zendana (56) netted the two goals for Japan.
Young striker Gurjant gave India the lead with a reverse-hit after he had collected an inch-perfect long ball before Japan equalised from a Wakuri penalty corner three minutes later.
India could have scored earlier, but despite dominating possession they failed to net one in the first quarter. The first of the many opportunities came in the second minute when India was awarded a penalty corner. But Harmanpreet Singh dragged it wide.
Then Gurjant and Mandeep came close in the 10th and 14th minute respectively but failed to convert.
With the match at 1-1, India earned back-to-back penalty corners within three minutes of each other in the second quarter. But while the first was blocked, the second PC went over the bar.
Chinglensana then gave India the lead in the 44th minute deflecting a loose ball into goal after Harmanpreet’s shot from India’s fourth PC was blocked.
That goal brought a relief into the India camp and they settled into the game not making more of the marauding attacks into the opposition camp until Dilpreet scored a brilliant solo goal just five minutes away from the final hoot.
Making a surprise run, Dilpreet breezed past two defenders before rifling a shot into a goal to make it 3-1.
But India’s joy was short-lived as Japan reduced the margin into one-goal deficit when Zendana slotted the ball past PR Sreejesh. India took a referral appealing against the goal but lost it. They, however, defended deep and in numbers in the final few minutes to eventually set up a summit clash with Pakistan.
India will take on Pakistan in the final on Sunday at 10:40 pm IST after the third-place play-off match between Japan and Malaysia.