Japan secured their first women’s hockey title in Asian Games history as two well-worked penalty corners helped them beat India 2-1 here today.
The line-up in the gold medal match was one rarely seen at the Asian Games, with South Korea the defending champions and five-time gold medallists, not involved.
It meant Japan, who knocked out South Korea in the semi-finals, had a chance to win the gold for the first time, while India were hoping to win it for the first time since 1982.
The match started brightly, with Japan threatening to gain a shot on goal with their first attack, before a strong Indian counter surge saw them surge forward.
Shortly after that, Japan had a brilliant chance to go 1-0 up as Aki Yamada found herself free in the area with the ball.
She could not find the corner, however, as Rajani Etimarpu was able to save in the Indian goal.
The first goal came after 10 minutes when Japan won their first penalty corner.
Rather than drag flicking the ball from the top of the 'D', as is most common, Japan instead decided to fire it towards goal.
Shihori Oikawa was able to get in front of the keeper and deflect it over the top into the net.
After the first quarter and with the score 1-0 to the good, Japan seemed to settle more into the game.
The side looking for their first gold had more of the ball, but India still looked threatening on the break and it was a counter that gave them the equaliser.
A pass up the left wing instantly transitioned play from defence into attack, with the forward able to run into Japan’s D and play a reverse hit across goal.
With the defence scrambling, Neha Goyal turned the ball in at the far post against the run of play.
Chances at both ends followed, before Japan won their second penalty corner of the match and promptly converted it again.
One player faked a penalty flick, before Motomi Kawamura came in behind with a reverse flick straight into the far corner, prompting wild celebrations.
As the fourth quarter started, not wanting to risk losing the lead by trying for another, Japan sat back and invited pressure, which they were able to withhold.
At one stage the Japanese managed to get the ball up onto India’s byline, where they managed to keep it, shielded in the corner for three minutes before India won it back.
The trailing side thought they had won a penalty corner with seconds remaining, but the video umpire decided otherwise and that was the match.
China claimed bronze with a 2-1 victory over South Korea.
The men’s final will take place tomorrow, with japan again going for gold against Malaysia, as India fight for bronze against rivals Pakistan.