The highest and lowest ranked sides in the competition clashed here on Thursday night and India expectedly walked away with the honours, thrashing China 7-2 to kickstart its Asian Champions Trophy hockey campaign on a winning note.
It was all about the host from the beginning, dominating both possession and proceedings and barely allowing the Chinese space to reach the Indian third.
The goal-spree started in the fifth minute and India did not take its foot off the pedal, going 3-0 up by the end of first quarter. With the entire team pressing forward, China scrambled to defend.
It did try to fight back, getting two goals in the second quarter — the first an easy one with an absent defence — but despite India dropping pace a bit, China could not push past the Indian midfield.
The humidity did not make things any easier for China.
While the hosts too struggled, getting erratic towards the end and failing to score in the final 15 minutes — Chinese goalkeeper Caiyu Wang brought off some impressive saves to deny the Indians — they had done enough get full points in the bag.
If there still remains some concern for the Indian side, it would be the over-reliance on penalty corners to get the goals.
India earned ten and converted six, Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar adding two each while Sukhjeet Singh and Mandeep Singh got in deflections.
India’s only field goal came in the 16th minute when Akashdeep Singh struck in from the left as the players seemed to only focus on penalty corners every time they entered the circle. It might not have mattered in the opening game but against stronger opponents, the team would do well to have more scoring options.
Also registering a 3-1 win was Malaysia against Pakistan, the difference in fitness and experience between the two sides clearly visible. Pakistan tried to attack constantly, forcing six penalty corners and a stroke through the game but failed to break the deadlock.
Malaysia, playing more on the counter, was equally off-target before quick turnovers and an absent defence saw Firhan Ashari slam two goals in a space of one minute towards the end of the second quarter as Malaysia took control of the proceedings.
Korea downs Japan
Earlier in the day, defending champion Korea came back from being a goal down to win 2-1 over reigning Asian Games champion Japan, struggling in the first quarter but gradually settling down to stay in control thereafter.
The results: Korea 2 (Cheo Leon Park, Jung Hoo Kim) bt Japan 1 (Ryoma Ooka).
Malaysia 3 (Firhan Ashari 2, Shello Silverius) bt Pakistan 1 (Abdul Rehman).
India 7 (Harmanpreet Singh 2, Varun Kumar 2, Sukhjeet Singh, Akashdeep Singh, Mandeep Singh) bt China 2 (E. Wenhui, Jiesheng Gao).