Kuantan: India thrashed China 9-0 to stay in the hunt for top spot in the round-robin league competition of the fourth Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here on Tuesday.
Akashdeep Singh, Yousuf Affan and Jasjit Singh Kumar scored three goals apiece as India steamrolled the Chinese defence. The Indians were looking to equal their 10-goal feat against Japan in this tournament when the hooter ended the contest.
Rupinder Pal Singh, captaining India in this contest, Nikkin Thimmaiah and Lalit Upadhyay also made entries in the score-sheet as India boosted their points tally to 10 from four matches, one of which was drawn.
India will take on hosts Malaysia on Wednesday with both teams in contention for top spot in the round-robin league standings. Malaysia have nine points from three successive victories.
India went into this game without ace goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, who was seen wearing a brace on his left ankle. This paved the way for the coaches to give for a full game to goalkeeper Akash Chikte, who did well to ward off two penalty corner shots in a game otherwise played in the Chinese territory.
Akashdeep opened the Indian account in the ninth minute when he intercepted a back-pass among Chinese defenders and beat goalkeeper Wang Hong Yu with a shot from the top of the circle that went into the net.
Akashdeep was also in the picture for India’s second goal in the 18th minute as he squared the ball to unmarked Affan in a brisk raid. Affan sent a well-directed push into the boards.
Jasjit swapped passes with Talwinder Singh in the scoring zone before scoring with a fine reverse shot that wrong-footed the custodian in the 22nd minute before Rupinder converted the first penalty corner three minutes later to give India a 4-0 lead at half-time.
India’s highest goal-getter with eight penalty corner conversions in this tournament, Rupinder is also the highest scorer of the tournament so far.
Rupinder also sent the second Indian penalty corner into the net, but the goal was cancelled on video review sought by the Chinese team.
Earlier in the day, defending champions Pakistan rode on two penalty corner goals from Mohammed Aleem Bilal to survive a scare and prevail 4-3 over Japan.
Japan are still without a point from four outings in the round-robin league, but were pressing for an equaliser when the rain-hit encounter against Pakistan came to an end.
Pakistan, who placed one foot in the semifinals with this victory, now have six points from four games with a fixture against China remaining.
In the encounter that featured two breaks for a total of 40 minutes due to torrential showers, Pakistan took the initial lead in the fifth minute through Muhammad Ifran Jr open field strike.
Japan equalised through a field goal by Seren Tanka in the 10th minute, only to see Bilal convert a penalty corner at the other end two minutes later to make it 2-1 for Pakistan.
Attacking in unison, Japan breached the Pakistan defence to draw 2-2 parity in the last minute of the first half through a flash strike by Kenta Tanka.
Pakistan’s third goal came through the quick-silver reflexes of Mohammed Rizwan Sr. Following the deflection from a Japanese defender in a packed circle, Rizwan Sr stretched to reach the ball and sent a snap reverse shot into the citadel, surprising goalkeeper Genki Mitani with his shot from the narrow angle.
Soon after, heavy showers caused interruption of the match with the player coming off the field. The game resumed for five minute before the players were forced to return to the dressing room as the skies opened up again.
Bilal scored his second panalty corner goal in the 52nd minute to make it 4-2, but Pakistan defence faced some late pressure from Japan.
Hirotaka Zendana converted a penalty stroke in the 54th minute to bring Japan within one goal of Pakistan’s score, but failed in their effort to score another goal during the last five minutes.