India eked out a hard-fought 2-1 victory over China in their last pool match to enter the semifinals of the seventh junior mens Asia Cup hockey tournament here on Monday. Naveen Antil (19th min) and Amit Rohidas (57th) scored the goals for India,while the Chinese lone reply came through winger Yu Xin in the 45th minute. Having registered two wins and a draw,India collected seven points to move into the last four stage.
India took a long time to settle down in the match. It was winger Antil who tapped in after a melee to give India the much needed goal in the 19th minute. There were many chances to go up subsequently but the forwards in Malak Singh,Akashdeep Singh and Satbir Singh were wayward inside the circle.
After change of sides,China scored the equaliser 15 minutes into the second half when Yu Xin connected a Zhang Zhixuans hit in from the top of D much against the run of play.
The Indians attacked relentlessly,opening the wings,but chances were wasted due to poor finishing inside the circle. Indias penalty corner conversion too was unimpressive. But vice-captain Rohidas managed to sent in a grounder off the fifth chance they got,much to the relief of their camp.
The Chinese pressed hard in the last 10 minutes stretching the Indian defence manned by Amit and Sukhmanjit Singh. Sushant Tirkey. The Indian goalkeeper also came up with good saves to keep the lead intact.
It was a do or die situation for the Chinese. They had nothing to lose. Since we did not score enough goals,they pressed hard. This resulted in a tense match. Had we only did well in the circle,utilising our chances,things would have been different, said India coach Baljit Singh Saini.
A 4-1 score would have been ideal,but its a lesson for our forwards for the future. They have to be sharper and productive inside the circle, he added. Saini though admitted that China were a strong side. At the same time,we have to look at the fact that the Chinese played superbly against Pakistan too. They are a good side. Sometimes,you play well still lose a point or two,and today we collected full points,this is what matters in the end, he said.
India will meet hosts Malaysia in the semifinal on Thursday as Pakistan have pipped India to top the pool. Pakistan needed a 12-goal margin victory against Sri Lanka to top the pool and they achieved it in style,winning 14-0. Pakistan will take on South Korea in their last four match.