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FIH Series Finals: India tame Japan to enter Olympic qualifiers

BHUBANESWAR: India's Friday evening began with a frustrating stutter but it surely ended in cruise mode as the hosts of the FIH Series Finals right here tick-marked their number one goal of securing a spot in the year-end Olympic qualifiers with a comfortable 7-2 win over Japan in the semi-final.

Coach Graham Reid's boys will meet South Africa in the last on Saturday, after the Africans defeated USA 2-1 in the other semi-final that ended with an exhilarating last-minute winner to take Tim Drummond's staff thru to the Olympic qualifiers as neatly.

The most sensible two finishers from this match join 12 others for the 14-team Olympic qualifiers in October-November this 12 months.

India's dreaded second got here as early as the second one minute when Kenji Kitazato discovered himself on the end of a neat cross-pitch hit to catch the Indian defence and goalkeeper Krishan Pathak drowsing.

But Harmanpreet Singh in the 7th minute and Varun in the 14th converted two penalty corners to assist the Indian bench breathe simple earlier than the tip of first quarter.

The Asian Games champions and Tokyo 2020 hosts got here out of the quarter damage in spirited model to draw level thru Kota Watanabe in the 20th minute. But that used to be their last second of high-fives.

India upped the ante and regarded more assertive in many of the closing 45 minutes, because of a brace through Ramandeep Singh (23rd and 37th) and targets from Hardik Singh (25th), Gursahibjit Singh (43rd) and Vivek Sagar Prasad (47th).

Off the 10 penalty corners earned, India converted most effective 3. The luck price, thus, nonetheless left a large number of scope for improvement.

Japan had been also on the receiving end of injuries, with two of their players -- Manabu Yamashita and Yoshiki Kirishita -- stretchered off the pitch. That used to be when they had lost Raiki Fujishima due to illness earlier than the fit.

"Injuries happen. India played a mature game. Hit the ball, were more physical. But it should be like that. We have to deal with it. Our players are not used to this kind of physicality. We were a bit soft," said Japan caoch Siegfried Aikman.

India had added a cushion earlier than the half-time damage, main Four-2, and then pumped in a couple more in the subsequent 15 minutes to surge 6-2 forward. Prasad joined the record of India's goal-scorers in the last quarter to seal the scoreline.

The Japanese staff switched goalkeepers at half-time but it surely used to be to no avail once the Indian forwards discovered their mojo.

"I think it's the first game where I was almost satisfied," said India's coach Graham Reid.

But Reid also admitted that they did not make the ideal start, with Japan scoring first, as early as the second one minute.

"The idea was to start better than what we did. Giving away a goal is always difficult...(But) You should always be trying to find things to get better at," the Australian added.

It used to be Harmanpreet's 100th appearance for India. Incidentally, both his debut again in 2015 and the centenary recreation on Friday got here towards Japan right here on the Kalinga Stadium.

"The team gave me a nice gift with a win," Harmanpreet said. "Our mindset was always to put in full effort. We came back well."

The last begins at 1915 IST on Saturday, preceded through the third-place fit between USA and Japan at 1700 IST.

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