Rupinder's yellow card was turning point: Nobbs
With exactly a minute left on the clock, Japanese winger Naoto Shiokawa made the move that would break the back of the Indian team
With exactly a minute left on the clock, Japanese winger Naoto Shiokawa made the move that would break the back of the Indian team.
An error on the right flank saw the ball roll free as Naoto trap and speed across the flank, onto the touch line moving like a gymnast on the beam, the ball bouncing over inexperienced Indian defenders sticks.
Even before Indian goalkeeper Sreejesh realised the danger lurking, Naoto had shot in from almost a zero angle.
It was a superb piece of effort. India had been robbed of three points and six in total with the win over China. Now they had to settle for just one.
Till then, India had been sitting pretty with a 1-0 lead. Gurwinder Singh Chandi gave the lead in the 22nd minute after picking up a rebound of the Japanese goalkeeper's pads.
It was an even match after that, both the teams jostling for space in the midfield. Sporadic raids by Japan had the India defenders alert with Rupinder Pal Singh having a good game till the yellow card in the 50th minute gave the momentum to Japan. "It was a turning point in the match," said Indian coach Michael Nobbs.
"Rupinder sat out and we were reduced to ten men and that gave Japan renewed confidence and they pressed forward."
India had their chances with the three penalty corners standing out. The first two were wasted as Ravi Pal couldn't trap cleanly; a criminal waste looking at the prowess of Rupinder Pal Singh.
Rupinder's first effort came in the third short corner but the Japanese goalkeeper brilliantly brought off the save; Danish Mujtaba, Roshan Minz all had chances but it just wasn't their day.
"I will be honest that Japan was the fitter team today," said Nobbs. "By the end we were flagging and those are the areas we need to improve on before the qualifying comes around."
With four points in two matches, India has three matches left against South Korea, Pakistan and Malaysia. "The team needs the experience and we are not afraid of losing," says Nobbs. "In fact, you learn more after losing and this bunch would get the experience needed."
Earlier in the day, South Korea thrashed the Indian women's team 4-1 in their opening match of the Asian Champions.