(File pix) India hammered Japan 5-1 to keep a strong grip of Group A in the Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Wednesday.

INDIA hammered Japan 5-1 to keep a strong grip of Group A in the Asia Cup in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Wednesday.

It was a slow start, as Japan held them 1-1 by the fourth minute, but India were ruthless in the second half.

India netted through Sunil Sowmarpet (third), Lalit Upadhyay (22nd), Ramandeep Singh (33rd), Harmanpreet Singh (35th, 48th).

Japan got their consolation off Kenji Kitazato in the fourth minute.

It was newly appointed coach Sjoerd Marijne’s first test after Roelant Oltmans was sacked just before the tournament and he got the desired result.

Marijne attributed the slow start to jitters.

"The first match is always difficult as the players need time to settle down. But once they got down to business, the goals came," said Marijne.

Japan coach Siegfried Aikman felt that the match was a little lop-sided because his part-time players were up against a professional India outfit.

"We have part-time players who assembled just before the Asia Cup because they had to study and work.

"And our first game was against a professional team which trains full-time.

"We matched them until half-time, but after that, my players did not have the fitness to compete," said Aikman.

India have already qualified for the World Cup as hosts, while Japan must win their next two matches against Pakistan and Bangladesh to keep their hopes alive.

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