It was a case of too little too late for Japan as it squandered multiple chances and fell to a 3-1 defeat against Malaysia at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium here on Monday.
Japan was slow to start but produced countless chances only to let them slip away - a tale that would feel familiar to coach Akira Takahashi by now. Malaysia hung by a thread for three quarters but came out with a spot in the semifinals.
The Speedy Tigers started with its backline holding the ball, before channelling it out to the flanks.
They got their first look at goal when Shota Yamada failed to sort his feet out and conceded a penalty corner. But Japan escaped unscathed as postman Kaito Tanaka deflected Razie Rahim’s drag over the goal.
Malaysia was equally proficient in defence, not offering an inch of space for Japan’s forwards to enter its circle.
It got a second bite at the cherry in the 13th minute and Najmi Jazlan grabbed it as his drag flick crept between the legs of first rusher Yamada to put Malaysia ahead.
But the next three quarters turned out to be starkly different as Japan’s forwards found their bearings. What they could not find, though, was a goal.
The first chance came through a counter. Yamata copped a dangerous drag flick on his body which won Japan a free hit. It was taken quickly to release Ryosei Kato on the right flank. Kato darted to the final third before sending it into the circle only to see the ball beat the forward.
Kaito Tanaka then took a shot from the top of the circle which was parried away by Zaimi Mat Deris.
By the end of the second period, Japan forced the whole Malaysia team to play behind the 23-yard line. Genki Mitani made two entries to the circle but failed to trouble Mat Deris. Japan had a penalty corner too which Masaki Ohashi sent off target.
Malaysia’s captain committed a howler early in the third quarter as he gifted the ball to Ryoma Ooka in his own circle. Ooka squandered the sitter from point-blank range.
In the 37th minute, against the run of play, Malaysia found its second when Fitri Saari entered the circle and hit a Japanese foot. Azuan Hasan did not bother waiting for a corner and played advantage. He slapped the loose ball towards the goal which teased its way into the goal off a deflection.
Japan won a short corner in the very next minute but Takuma Niwa’s sliding deflection could not sound the board.
The Samurai Japan thudded the board in the 43rd minute but their joy was cut short as Seren Tanaka’s shot came from outside the striking circle.
In the 52nd minute, Taiki Takade ventured into the circle and squared the ball to Kosei Kawabe who missed the target. The final nail in Japan’s coffin came one minute from time as Shello Silverius rounded keeper Takumi Kitagawa and struck from close range to make it 3-0.
Japan found its consolation goal in the same minute when Niwa trapped an aerial and put it into the net with a reverse stick.
Pakistan beats China 2-1
Pakistan managed a feat it had failed to so far in the Asian Champions Trophy - hold on to a lead - as it got past China 2-1 at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium here on Monday.
The young forward line of Abdul Rana, Abdul Hannan and Afraz kept the Chinese defence on its heels with dribbling and pace. Muhammad Ammad and Ahtisham Aslam joined from defence to create overloads on both wings.
But the moves were sparks of brilliance followed by a lack of composure - the combination that has undone Pakistan’s hard work throughout the tournament.
Hannan, in particular, took several shots at goal, but most were reckless jabs at goal rather than measured takes.
Pakistan set the tone in the first minute when Rana stole the ball off a defender in the China circle.
Two short corners also came Pakistan’s way, but China kept level with Abdul Rehman firing the first one straight at Caiyu Wang, and Muhammad Sufyan Khan getting closed down by the first rusher.
Sufyan delivered on the second asking, disturbing the net with a rocket drag flick in the 19th minute. Pakistan almost got its second two minutes later when Zikriya Hayat zoomed through the China half and entered the circle. He set up Rehman one-on-one against Wang, but the latter prevailed.
All China had to show for its attacking ventures in the first half was three circle entries. But the side earned a penalty corner three minutes into the second half when Pakistan had nine outfield players due to a yellow card to Aslam. Jiesheng Gao parked his drag between the keeper and postman Arshad Liaqat to even the contest.
The Green Shirts got their lead back in the 39th minute with a close-knit move in the circle. Captain Umar Bhutta passed to Rana at the left edge whose reverse stick swipe found Afraz unmarked at the far post.
Akmal Hussain played a part in Pakistan keeping the lead with his denials on Weibai Ao and Benhai Chen.
Pakistan held through in the final period, but it was not without a pinch of nerves. First, Gao slapped a pass into the circle from the right that should have been buried into the goal at the far post. Then, one minute from the final hooter, Zixiang Guo was offered space in the circle. His cutback was met with a clean interception, and Pakistan heaved a sigh of relief.
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