The Indian Hockey Team, who were unbeaten with 13 points from their group games, continued their march to the top of the 4th Asian Champion's trophy as they beat South Korea in the semi-finals. The Indians had to hold onto their nerve as they were trailing 2-1 in the dying moments of the match but however took the game to the shootout where the men in blue prevailed.
India had scored a massive 25 goals in their five matches so far, with their biggest win coming by defeating China 9-0 and has conceded a mere six goals in the tournament. Rupinder Pal Singh has been in imperious form as he scored 10 goals so far, the highest in the tournament.
Speaking about the match, Chief Coach Roelant Oltmans said to Indiahockey.org, “Korea have an extremely well-drilled and organized defensive structure, and they rely on that in their games. We already have experience of seeing how suffocating their play can be, and it is a challenge for us. We will have to be more clinical in the final third against them and have shown that we can be so in our games so far. It should be a good encounter." The last time the countries played the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Impressive attack in the first half
The first half witnessed an amazing contest between the teams where they both showed urgency as to how important the match was. Talwinder Singh took the initiative for India to give the Men in Blue its first lead as sent the ball speeding past the Korean goalkeeper in the penultimate minute of the first quarter with a blazing backhanded finish.
But with just nine minutes left to the break, Seo Inwoo stunned everyone as he took on two Indian defenders and went past them to bury the ball in the net to give Korea the much-needed equalizer.
Korea dominated in the final seconds of the first half as they won a penalty corner and would have taken the lead if not for the brilliant reflexes for the Indian keeper. The teams came from the break with all back to square one. However, India looked to be in the driver's seat, dominating 58% of the possession and with 13 circle entries.
The Indian team looked in trouble with the constant Korean attacks as Sreejesh saved Indian blushes with three consecutive shots with the help of his defenders. But the saves were not much of a help as with just seven minutes left in the game, Korea won a penalty stroke and they converted through Yang Jihun. India, trailing 2-1, went all out, increasing the width of the play and took to the wings.
Sardar Singh put up a genius display of skills with multiple body shimmies from the flanks as he dribbled past the South Korean defenders to provide a wonderful assist to the sliding Ramandeep Singh.
India make it through to the finals via shootout
The final whistle blew with the teams tied at 2-2 as 70 minutes of game time were not enough to separate both the teams and they headed into the shootout. Both teams had 8 seconds to convert a shot during the shootout and India kicked it off.
The first 3 conversions went smoothly with the scores reading 3-3, the drama started when India's most trusted goalkeeper Sreejesh committed a stick tackle giving away a penalty stroke to the Korean side, which they scored from.
Luckily for India, things were balanced as the men in blue won a penalty stroke for a foul on Lakra in India’s final shot. India’s and the tournament's highest scorer Rupinder Singh took up the penalty duty and he scored with ease.
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The climax reached in the fifth shot of the shootout where Korea needed to score to keep their hopes alive in the tournament but much to the disbelief of the Korean fans the Indian keeper made a brilliant and clean tackle to put the ball out of possession and give India the win. India qualified for the finals and will play the winner of Pakistan vs Malaysia tomorrow.