After suffering a narrow defeat at the hands of neighbours and arch-rivals Pakistan, the Indian men's hockey team scripted an incredible turnaround to hammer Japan 35-1 after getting the better of Malaysia7-5 in the ongoing men's Asian Hockey 5s World Cup Qualifiers to enter the semifinals.
Both fixtures were played on Thursday, August 31. The Men in Blue were up against Malaysia in their first encounter and witnessed a stiff challenge as both teams dictated the tempo of the game during several phases. For India, it was Gurjot who dazzled brightly and scored five eye-popping goals to give the team an edge over the Malaysians.
However, it was Malaysia's Arif Ishak who landed the first blow as he scored in the 6th minute to give his team a lead. His teammate Ismail Abu scored in the very next minute (7th) to give an upper hand to Malaysia but it didn't take India too long to give a befitting reply as Gurjot took matters into his own hands to help India not only recover from the early damage but also gain the momentum back from the opposition.
Gurjot's five goals (7th, 11th, 17th, 29th, 30th) ripped through Malaysia's defence and didn't allow them to tinker with their strategy and counterattack efficiently. He was supported really well by Maninder Singh who scored in the 12th minute and one of the most consistent performers Mohammed Raheel, who scored in the 21st minute.
After the first two goals from Ishak and Abu, Malaysia were bolstered by another goal scored by Muhamad Din (8th) in the first half but struggled to penetrate India's defence further in the first half. They scored two more goals in the match as Kamarulzaman Kamaruddin (26th) and Syarman Mat (30th) showed signs of resistance but India prevailed to seal the game in their favour.
In their second game of the day, India displayed a relentless performance to outclass Japan. It was Maninder who led India's charge in the game scoring ten goals ((1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 9th, 15th, 20th, 24th, 25th, 29th) and Raheel converted seven opportunities (3rd, 4th, 11th, 12th, 17th, 26th, 26th).
Gurjot Singh (12th, 20th, 21st, 27th, 30th) and Pawan Rajbhar (2nd, 6th, 10th, 13th, 23rd) added to Japan's misery by scoring five each and Sukhvinder scored four himself (4th, 8th, 16th, 22nd). Skipper Mandeep Mor (18th, 23rd, 29th) scored thrice and Jugraj Singh (15th) scored once. The lone goal for Japan came from Masataka Kobori in the 29th minute.
India will feature in the second semi-final on Saturday, September 2.