India came into the game against China on Monday with a point to prove and answer a few questions on form and abilities and by the end of the game, the players had done both, registering a 2-1 win to go top of the table at the Jharkhand Asian Champions Trophy here.
The Asian Games disappointment was India’s first loss to China since the league match in the 2016 edition of the ACT. Fittingly, India used the same stage, seven years later, to reset itself. The intent was clear from the beginning as India went on the attack and kept its foot on the pedal. For the first 15 minutes, the host took charge of the midfield, creating gaps and pushing high even as China kept switching flanks to try and break forward without success.
The breakthrough came in the final seconds of the first quarter as a goalmouth melee resulted in a penalty stroke duly converted by Deepika. A powerful reverse shot from an unmarked Salima Tete from the top of the circle in the 26th made it 2-0 although China slowly crept into the game, using short passes to gradually spread out the Indian defence and create space for itself, something it continued post break, building repeatedly, patiently, waiting for its chance. It finally got one, converting its 2nd PC in the 41st minute to reduce the margin.
The Chinese kept pressing, forcing India to defend and even a forced stoppage of play because of some of the floodlights going off didn’t affect their rhythm but the Indians managed to hold on. At the Asiad, the Indians had appeared overwhelmed by the partisan Chinese crowd. On Monday, Ranchi proved it could do better as close to 15,000 people squeezed into an official space of 8,000 and got its money’s worth.
Earlier, Malaysia earned its first points in the competition, and against Asian Games silver medalist Korea in the history of the tournament, with a hard-fought 1-1 draw, Azhar Nur making no mistake in converting the team’s 2nd PC two minutes from time and Japan beat Thailand 4-0.
The results: Korea 1 (Suyoung Seo) drew with Malaysia 1 (Azhar Nur); Japan 4 (Mai Toriyama, Kana Urata, Yuri Nagai, Chiko Fujibayashi) bt Thailand 0; India 2 (Deepika, Salima Tete) bt China 1 (Jiaqi Zhong).
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