Bangladesh lose to Pakistan by 4 goals in their first Pool A meet in Hero Asia Cup 2017 at Maulana Bhashani National Stadium yesterday. -AA
The eight-nation Hero 10th Men's Asia Cup Hockey 2017 begins on Wednesday at Maulana Bhashani National Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, returning to Bangladesh for the first time since 1985. On the opening match on 03:00pm, the 2-time defending champions India start journey with the victory Asian giant Japan by 5-1 goals in a Pool A encounter while day's second match on 5:30pm, the hosts Bangladesh lose to Pakistan by 0-4 goals in their first Pool A meet held at the same venue.
The powerhouse India, who came into the Asia Cup following a disappointing campaign in Hockey World League semifinal round in England, took early lead when Sunil Sowmapret sounded the board for India in the 3rd minute (1-0). SV Sunil, Lalit Upadhyay, Ramandeep Singh, Harmanpreet Singh were the goal-scorers for India as they emerged victorious.
The Indian team started the match with an early goal in the 3rd minute which came on the counter as Akashdeep Singh played a forward pass to SV Sunil, who then got behind the goalkeeper to score. However, Japan were quick to equalize as they won the ball at the half-line, and scored through Kenji Kitazato in the 4th minute to make it 1-1. Both the teams looked threatening in the second quarter as they looked to get the lead in the match. India's counter attacking was again sublime in the 22nd minute as forward Lalit Upadhyay beautifully brought down a long ball, made a turn and shot at the Japanese goal to give the lead to Asia's number one ranked team.
The third quarter also went India's way as they scored just two minutes after the resumption of play when Ramandeep Singh made a fierceful strike from the right flank to score India's third goal of the day in the 33rd minute. The Indian team then won a penalty corner in the 35th minute which was well converted by drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh to make it 4-1 in India's favour. India did not let Japan make a comeback into the game and kept the possession to end the third quarter with the same score-line.
Fourth quarter was all about keeping shape and possession for the Indian team but they did not stop attacking the Japanese defence as they won a penalty corner in the 48th minute. It was Harmanpreet Singh who scored his second goal of the match to make it 5-1 in India's favour. The Indian team held onto the score-line as they kept out Japan's late efforts to pull a goal back.
India's new head coach Sjoerd Marijne said to the reporters after the match, "It was my first match as Inda's coach. However, I always focus on the team's victory. I am pleased with this first victory of the tournament. Japan lost the preparatory match with Bangladesh. We did not see the results of the preparation match seriously. We tried to play our normal game… We were able to take advantage of penalty corners. Goals and win have increased our confidence. We will try to continue our performances with the hosts Bangladesh."
Earlier, Pakistan's head coach, Farhat Hasan Khan said to the reporters, "We have already qualified for next year's World Cup in India, but our main focus will be on performing well in this Asia Cup. There is tough competition among the participating Asian teams with India being the strongest on paper with a world ranking of 6 …
Therefore, it is important for us to keep focus on our game as we want to win the tournament. We will need to make improvement in all areas of our game if we want to achieve our goal this time. We have faced a tough time in recent years as we failed to qualify for the last World Cup, and then 2016 Olympic Games, therefore we want to deliver our best starting from Hero Asia Cup 2017"
The tournament kicked off yesterday with the inaugural ceremony where Planning Minister AHM Mostafa Kamal, deputy minister for Youth and Sports Arif Khan Joy, Chief Executive of the Asian Hockey Federation Tayyab Ikarm and Bangladesh Hockey Federation president Air Marshall Abu Esar were introduced with the players before the match.
The 8 teams are placed in two pools and after playing three matches, the top two teams of each pool will move into another pool named the Super Fours and the bottom two teams of each pool will move to another pool to determine the 5-8th placing. In the Super 4s pool the teams will play a round robin and the top two teams then proceed to the final.
-AA Sports Desk
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