Japan whip lethargic India

Japan’s Kaori Chiba (right) celebrates after scoring a goal for her team against India at the Asian Games on Tuesday. Reuters

India had their chances but didn’t have the sharpness to grab them. Japan, fitter and faster, sprinted away, utilizing the opportunities that came their way to good effect. India also paid the price for their ‘indiscipline’ -- as coach Sandeep Somesh put it -- receiving two green and two yellow cards at different points in the game, stifling their play.

Miyuki Nakagawa in the 10th minute, Kaori Chiba in the 31st and Mazuki Arai in the 69th scored for Japan, who had to thwart a clutch of Indian attempts in the second half. India suffered a reverse in the very first minute itself when defender Binita Toppo twisted her knee and had to be carried out. She came back for a brief while at the start of the second half and later, was taken for an x-ray, with her appearance in future matches looking very much unlikely.

India had beaten Japan 2-0 in the World Cup in September but the Japanese were better organized on the day and the Indians rarely got opportunities to enter the rival striking circle. Struggling to trap and pass the ball properly, the Indians conceded the first goal in the tenth minute, with Japan taking full advantage of their lethargy.

As Shiho Otsuka dribbled down the right and pulled the ball back for Miyuki, the Indians failed to sense the danger and Miyuki rifled in a shot from the top of the circle to beat goalkeeper Dipika Murthy. Japan struck again in the 31st minute, with a slow Subhadra Pradhan failing to cut off a move on the right, again triggered by Otsuka. This time, Chiba easily beat Deepika with a deflection.

Rani Rampal’s creativity enabled India gain a penalty corner in the first half but they made a mess of it. In the second session, India were slightly better but Surinder Kaur and Saba Anjum let a couple of good chances go abegging. Japan rubbed salt into the Indian wounds in the 69th minute with a fine reverse hit.

Coach Somesh felt playing three back-to-back tournaments -- World Cup, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games -- had an effect on his players’ fitness. “They are a bit fatigued,” he said, and admitted that India would have a tough time when they play South Korea on Wednesday.

In other matches, South Korea drubbed Malaysia 4-0 and China blanked Kazakhstan 3-0.
In men's Pool A matches, South Korea routed Oman 8-0 while China edged Singapore 2-0.

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