06 Oct 2018

Japan shock Australia Featured

Japan pulled off one of the biggest upset in the Junior arena when they defeated two-time champions Australia 2-1 in their opening match of the 2018 Sultan of Johor Cup at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium.

The Japanese came back from a goal down to achieve the result which will surely shock the hockey fraternity.

But their display has been nothing short of excellent as they absorbed the pressure and in the later stages took the game to the Australians.

It was a vast improvement by the Japanese team this year. They made their debut in 2016 and were beaten 6-0 by the Australians. Still, they went on to finish in third place.

Then last year they fell 0-4 to the Australians.  Both years, the Australians lifted the title.

Japanese coach Hiroki Sakamoto said that they felt there was a reasonable chance at the winning the match.

“Yes, we believed we can win. But the players did well to keep the score down and we managed to take the chances at the right time. It is a good start and we need to keep improving. The Britain team comes next and we need to make sure that our game is up to mark,” he said.

The champions were kept at bay for almost 29 minutes by the tireless Japanese. It was the Australians who had the bigger share of the possession.

But poor finishing was their bane as they missed no less than three sitters.

Credit must be given to the Japanese for their tenacious defending as they had every player behind the ball.

The Japanese had an early look at goal in the seventh minute when they earned a penalty corner. But the attempt was foiled by the Australians.

Most of the two quarters were a tussle in midfield with the Australians trying very hard to get the goals.

With 30 seconds for the second quarter to end, the Australians finally earned their first penalty corner.

Damon Steffens made no mistake with the direct flick and scored the opening goal, for his team. Australia leads 1-0 at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Japanese started off strongly and gained their second penalty corner.

Raiki Fujishima’s direct flick hit an Australian player’s leg and sailed into the ned for the equaliser.

The equaliser also changed the game with the Japanese becoming the aggressors. The Australians continued to have chances at goals, but their shots were either saved or off target.

With 20 seconds to go for the match to end, the Japanese earned their third penalty corner of the match. And the Japanese went on to create their biggest upset in the junior arena with Shoji Iseki scoring the attempt.

Australian coach Chris O’Reilly said the first match jitters got to the players and hope to bounce quickly.

“There is no doubt that we made some unforced errors and our decision making was also poor.  No doubt e could have scored more goals and won easily but overall it was a poor showing. That has to do with the first match nervousness, “he said.

Australia will play Malaysia while Japan faces Britain.

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