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Host India hammer Russia 10-0; Japan beat Mexico

Host India hammer Russia 10-0; Japan beat MexicoIndian players attack on Russian goal during FIH Men’s Series Finals at Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Odisha
Highlights

Starting their preparations for next year's Tokyo Olympics in the right earnest, favourites India thrashed Russia 10-0 and Asian Games champion Japan...

Bhubaneswar (PTI): Starting their preparations for next year's Tokyo Olympics in the right earnest, favourites India thrashed Russia 10-0 and Asian Games champion Japan beat Mexico 3-1 in their opening match of the FIH Series Finals hockey tournament here.

Japan, having already qualified for the Olympics being the hosts as well as continental champions, are taking this tournament as a preparation for the quadrennial event.

Dragflicker Harmanpreet Singh (32nd, 48th) and striker Akashdeep Singh (41st, 55th) scored a brace each while Nilkanata Sharma (13th), Simranjeet Singh (19th), Amit Rohidas (20th), Varun Kumar (33rd), Gursahibjit Singh (38th) and Vivek Sagar Prasad (45th) also got on the scoresheet for the home team in a lop-sided Pool B encounter.

There was only one team playing from the first whistle, as India took the lead in the 13th minute when Nilkanta deflected in Akshdeep Singh's push from top of the D. India doubled their lead in the 19th minute when Simranjeet scored from a rebound after Sumit's reverse shot was saved by the Russian goalkeeper.

A minute later, Rohidas made it 3-0 from a penalty corner.

After change of ends, the Indians started dominating the Russians even more with Harmanpreet and Varun converting two penalty corners in consecutive minutes before Gursahibjit and Akshdeep scored two field goals in the 38th and 41st minutes, respectively. Young Prasad also got on the scoresheet before Harmanpreet sounded the board again from a penalty corner.

Akashdeep scored his second goal of the day five minutes from the final hooter to complete the rout.

India will play Poland in their second pool match on Friday.

World no. 18 Japan's campaign got off to a perfect start when Hirotaka Zendana (3rd, 34th minutes) converted two penalty corners while Shota Yamada (21st) scored from a penalty stroke to emerge winners in the Pool B encounter.

But Japan were in for an early shock when Erik Hernandez gave world no. 39 Mexico the lead as early as the third minute.

The lead, however, was shortlived as within seconds Zendana struck from Japan's first penalty corner to draw level. Thereafter, the Japanese slowly and steadily got their footing in the match and controlled the proceedings.

Japan will play South Africa in their next match Saturday, while Mexico will be up against USA. The top two teams of the ongoing FIH Series Finals will seal their berths in the FIH Olympic Qualifiers to be held in October-November this year.

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