Defending champions India eked out a close 3-2 win over Asian Games gold medalist Japan to enter the final of the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) hockey tournament, in Muscat on Saturday.
It turned out to be a tall task for the world no. 5 Indians to get past Japan against whom they had registered a convincing 9-0 win in the league stages.
Young striker Gurjant Singh gave India the lead in the 19th minute with a fine reverse hit field goal before Japan equalised through Wakuri three minutes later from a penalty corner.
After the change of ends, India restored their lead when Chinglensana Singh deflected in from a penalty corner in the 44th minute.
Five minutes from the hooter Dilpreet Singh extended India’s lead with a superb field strike in the 55th minute.
But India’s joy was shortlived as Japan reduced the margin a minute later when Zendana scored from a penalty corner to give serious threats to the Indians.
But thereafter, the Indians defended well in numbers to thwart Japan’s challenge in the final few minutes to register the hard-fought win and a place in tomorrow’s final against arch-rivals Pakistan.
Earlier in the day, two-time champions Pakistan defeated Malaysia 3-1 in the shootout after a 4-4 draw in regulation period of the first semi-final to enter tomorrow’s summit clash.