Hockey Tokyo 2020

The Kookaburras secured their first win for Tokyo 2020. Photo: Kookaburras - Twitter

The Kookaburras overcame a second quarter scare to kickstart their Olympic campaign with a two goal win against host nation Japan.

Australia has kicked off its Tokyo 2020 Olympics campaign with a 2 goal win against hosting nation Japan at Oi Hockey Stadium. For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

Despite Japanese goalkeeper Takashi Yoshikawa’s efforts and a huge momentum swing in the second quarter, the Kookaburras had the last laugh, securing their first win of Tokyo 2020.

Australia was a relatively inexperienced side, with 11 Olympic debutants in the squad, however, this certainly didn’t outweigh their class. This was the sole reason for their dominant first quarter and tremendous second-half comeback.

Four-time Olympian Eddie Ockenden provided a cool, experienced head when the game seemed to fall apart in the second quarter, instilling confidence in his side in the second half.

Throughout the game, Australia had 19 shots on goal, which could’ve been far more devastating for Japan. Yoshikawa was their saving grace and proficient in goals, saving 64% of the shots from Australia’s renowned ruthless attack.

Australia looked shaky as Japan’s attack tested the Australian defence, who struggled to absorb pressure early. Goalkeeper Andrew Charter did well to stop several opportunities on goal, including two penalty corners.

However, these two minutes of madness melted away as Australia’s attack begun to shake off the Japanese defence. This started with an opportunity on goal from Blake Govers, who sent the ball towards goal, but didn’t get the reward.

Trent Mitton was ever-present in Australia’s attack, doing what he could to get the ball inside the circle and set up goals for his teammates. His assist to Tim Brand created Australia’s first goal of the day.

The Kookaburras held possession for a majority of the first quarter, particularly Flynn Ogilvie and Jacob Whetton who were impressive in the middle.

That was quickly followed up by another goal from Tom Craig, giving the Kookaburras a two-goal advantage heading into the first break.

The tables turned quickly in the second term, as Japan relentlessly attacked and deconstructed the Australian defence, scoring three goals to give them a one-goal lead at halftime.

The loss of composure came from a seemingly unstoppable Kenta Tanaka, who stole the ball from Craig and scored Japan’s first.

Five minutes later, it was Yoshiki Kirishita who joined Tanaka as a goal scorer for Japan. It was a sneaky deflection that evaded the Australian Goalkeeper which equalised the score.

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Only a minute later, Tanaka hit the scoreboard again to give the 15th side in the world a lead over the world’s number one side.

There was a cause for concern for Colin Batch’s men heading into the second half, however, these were soon eased in the third quarter.

Japan did everything it could to keep Australia from scoring, but the ball remained locked in the visitor’s end.

Anytime the ball went down Japan’s end, the Australian defence comprising of Dylan Martin, Timothy Howard and Joshua Simmonds quickly got it out of there, cutting off any chance for them to have a shot on goal in the second half.

In the 31st minute, the first green card was paid to Japan’s Manabu Yamashita for hitting the ball away. Japan spent two minutes a player down, but were unwavering and did not let Australia score in this period.

However, a minute later, this changed for Japan.

With six shots on goal, it was fitting that Govers capitalised on at least one of them, which he did as he converted a penalty corner to equalise and start Australia’s fight back.

Moments later, a captain’s goal and a tomahawk from Aran Zalewski to put Australia in front was almost denied by a video referral for a stick infringement.

The findings came back in Australia’s favour, and they took a one-goal lead into the final stanza.

The final goal came from an assist from Brand, who set up an opportunity for debutant Daniel Beale, who slapped the ball home to seal the game by two goals.

Ockenden and Matthew Dawson didn’t record a goal, but they each had a scoring shot, while all three of Jeremy Hayward’s shots were denied.

Australia will continue its search for Olympic gold against India tomorrow, while Japan faces Rio gold medallists Argentina.

Final score: Japan 3 – Australia 5

Australia goals: Brand 11’, Craig 14’, Govers 34’, Zalewski 38’, Beale 50’

Japan goals: Tanaka 22’, 27’, Kirishita 56’

For all your Tokyo 2020 coverage, stay tuned to The Inner Sanctum’s Olympic hub and the Olympics Central.

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