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Mandeep Singh's hat-trick helps India edge past Japan in Azlan Shah Cup

Win gives India a chance of making to its second successive final in the tournament

Press Trust of India  |  Ipoh 

Azlan Shah Cup, Indian hockey
India's Sardar Singh, second from left, keeps the ball off Japan's Suguru Hoshi, left, and Seren Tanaka during their match at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup men's field hockey tournament in Ipoh, Malaysia on Wednesday. (Photo: PTI)

Striker scored a brilliant hat-trick to hand a fighting 4-3 victory over lower-ranked in a round robin match of the 26th tournament in on Wednesday.

Having squandered the early lead provided by a penalty corner conversion from Rupinderpal Singh, were trailing when Mandeep got into his goal-scoring act in the second half.

It needed two goals from Mandeep in the last 10 minutes to help avoid a stunning loss.

Neutralising India's early lead through Kazuma Murata's fine deflection in the 10th minute, led twice in the game with goals coming from Heita Yoshihara (43rd) and Genki Mitani (45th), but they could not overcome Mandeep's brilliance.

Mandeep got into the goal-scoring act with a fine touch on a through ball from Harmanpreet Singh in the 45th minute.

He then came back to tap in a square ball from Sardar Singh in the 51st minute and then ensured three points for by capitalising on a diagonal ball from Rupinderpal in the 58th minute.

Mandeep's three goals kept India's challenge alive in the six-nation tournament, taking them to seven points from four matches.

The win gave a chance of making the second successive final in the Sultan after having finished runners-up behind Australia last year.

opened the account through Rupinderpal, who converted the first penalty corner in the eighth minute with a rasping flick into the right side of the net.

wasted their first penalty corner in the ninth minute as the push could not be stopped cleanly. were down to 10 men when they got the equaliser a minute later.

The Indian defenders were reduced to the role of spectators as Japanese striker Murata flicked in from the goalmouth after picking a cross from Masaki Ohashi on the right.

Harmanpreet's stinging flick on the second penalty corner nearly got their second goal in the 14th minute, but the ball landed on the fingers of a defender's stick-holding hand and the rebound was wasted by Yousuf Affan.

took a 2-1 lead in the 42nd minute when Yoshihara was allowed to run unchallenged to the top of the box and his shot beat Indian goalkeeper Akash Chikte for a soft goal.

have lost the services of their first-choice goalkeeper P R Sreejesh, whose right knee injury sustained in yesterday's game against Australia has ruled him out from the remainder of the tournament.

Mandeep's first goal, a deflection from Harmanpreet's firm shot into the circle, brought level at 2-2 in the 45th minute.

But joy was shortlived as restored their lead within half a minute.

went 3-2 ahead as Mitani's rasping flick in a crowded circle could not be blocked by Indian custodian Chikte. The ball went off the goalkeeper's glove into the top of the net.

Rattled by the strike, added thrust to their raids and were rewarded when Sardar shrugged away two defenders to square the ball across the goalmouth. Mandeep applied the finishing touch by easing the ball over the goalline to make it 3-3 in the 51st minute.

Mandeep made it a memorable day when he collected a diagonal ball from Rupinderpal on the right and put the reverse drive past Japanese goalkeeper Suguru Shimmoto to secure the hard-fought win and full points from the encounter.

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