The battle of table-toppers was expected to be a close affair and it played out as such before India edged past Japan 2-1 on Tuesday to remain the only unbeaten side at the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy 2023.
It was a cagey affair that saw neither team able to completely take control. While India enjoyed more possession, it was let down by erratic finishing and inability to close down the Japanese. Playing a high press game seeking an early advantage, India kept moving into the opposition circle but could not get the final touch.
The Indian midfield was the star of the match, constantly creating space and turnovers and stealing possession every time the ball was lost, only to find the strikers either off position or unable to control inside the D. The Japanese defence was tight, their tackling clean and even goalmouth melees did not result in penalty corners for India.
Japan, on the other hand, stayed true to its structure, spreading out and advancing through the flanks, playing smart instead of hard or fast. The few chances it got through the first 30 minutes were all goal-oriented with clean trapping and passing but the end result was a goalless first half.
India’s attempts at going aerial post break seemed to make a difference and soon after resumption, Navneet Kaur’s powerful hit from the top of the circle beat everyone in a red shirt to hit the board. It took just six minutes for Japan to convert its third PC to level scores. It was a battle of attrition and as the game progressed, India appeared to be losing the patience to stay composed even as Japan gradually crept up, accelerating towards the end of every quarter.
Three PCs on the trot finally saw India get the winner through Deepika but Japan continued to press, testing the Indian defence till the end that managed to just about hold on.
Earlier, Malaysia managed to keep China quiet for the first 15 minutes before the latter struck thrice in the second quarter to win 4-0 while Korea won 3-0 against Thailand.
The results: Korea 3 (Yujin Lee, Cheyoung Jung, Seungae Park) bt Thailand 0; China 4 (Jiaqi Zhong 3, Meirong Zou) bt Malaysia 0; India 2 (Navneet Kaur, Deepika) bt Japan 1 (Kana Urata).
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