India beat Japan 5-1, finish fifth in Asia Cup

Striker Tushar Khandekar pumped in two late goals as defending champions India routed Japan 5-1 to finish fifth in the Asia Cup hockey tournament.

updated: May 15, 2009 11:15 IST
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Kuantan, Malaysia:

Striker Tushar Khandekar pumped in two late goals as defending champions India routed Japan 5-1 to finish a lowly fifth in the seven-nation Asia Cup hockey tournament here on Friday.

Khandekar (64th, 69th minutes) found the net twice for India, while Rajpal Singh (2nd minute), skipper Sandeep Singh (21st) and Prabhjot Singh (66th) scored a goal each for the winners.

Sakamoto Hiroki (31st minute) was the lone scorer for Japan.

Though Japan had an upper hand in exchange of passes and attack in the initial stages of the match, India found the net at will, scoring twice in the first half and thrice in the last six minutes of the second session.

Irrespective of the scoreline, India seemed nowhere near the best and their defence looked always under pressure.

Having already made their exit from the medal race for the first time in the history of the tournament, India started on a positive note and gave Japan no time to settle down with Rajpal finding the net as early as in the second minute off Khandekar's cross from the right flank.

The Indians asserted their authority in the midfield through Sardara Singh and Vikram Pillay and all their Japanese opponents could do was to mount sporadic attacks.

Rajpal had the opportunity to double the lead but he squandered a golden opportunity after fed by Prabhjot Singh.

Sandeep soon made it 2-0 scoring his fifth goal of the tournament with a fierce drag-flick after substitute Hariprasad had earned India's first penalty corner.

Japan's persistence finally paid off in the 31st minute when Sakamoto Hiroki deflected a hit-in from left flank to reduce the margin and go into the breather trailing 1-2.

The Indians came into the second half with a defensive mindset and were happy staying back instead of going for the knockout punch.

Khandekar then injected some life in the last six minutes of the boring encounter when his reverse hit from a SV Sunil pass sounded the board in the 64th minute.

Two minutes later, Prabhjot made the scoreline 4-1 with a solo effort. The veteran striker, who squandered a couple of sitters after the breather, made amends by placing the ball to the right of the onrushing Japanese goalkeeper.

Khandekar added one more to his name just seconds from the hooter with another gem of a reverse hit from inside the 15 yard area.

South Korea will take on Pakistan in the summit clash on Saturday, while hosts Malaysia will lock horns with China in the third-fourth ranking play-off match.