Drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh fired a brace as India began their Hero Asia Cup hockey campaign with a 5-1 emphatic win over Japan on Wednesday. Apart from Harmanpreet (35th, 48th minute), S.V. Sunil (third minute), Lalit Upadhyay (22nd), Ramandeep Singh (33th) were the goal-scorers for India as they emerged victorious by a big margin.
Sjoerd Marijne-coached India started the match with an early goal in the third minute which came on a counter-attack. Akashdeep Singh won the ball in midfield and played a through pass to Sunil, who then beat the rival goalkeeper to score.
However, Japan hit back and were quick to equalise within a minute as Kenji Kitazato received a cross from the left and slid the ball past Indian custodian Suraj Karkerain.
Both the teams looked threatening in the second quarter as they looked to get the lead in the match.
India's counter-attacking was again sublime in the 22nd minute as forward Lalit beautifully brought down a long ball from Harmanpreet from left, made a turn and shot at the Japanese goal to give the lead to Asia's number one ranked team.
The third quarter also went India's way as they scored just two minutes after the resumption of play when Ramandeep made a fierce strike from the right flank to score India's third goal of the day in the 33rd minute.
The Indian team then won a penalty corner in the 35th minute which was well converted by drag-flicker Harmanpreet to make it 4-1 in India's favour.
India did not let Japan make a comeback into the game and kept the possession to end the third quarter with the same scoreline.
The Indian team did not stop attacking the Japanese defence as they won a penalty corner in the 48th minute. It was Harmanpreet who scored his second goal of the match to make it 5-1 in India's favour to complete the scoring.
India will now play Bangladesh in their next Pool A encounter on Friday.