FIH Hockey Champions Trophy 2016: Late winner helps India topple South Korea
Late minute heroics from Nikkin Thimmaiah helped Indian to another memorable victory at the ongoing Champions Trophy in London. After taking a deserved lead in the third quarter, all hopes looked lost for the Blueshirt when the Koreans equalised with only seconds left in the encounter. However, Sunil was the man on the spot for India in the last minute to give Roelant Oltmans' men their second win of the tournament and a timely boost after their confidence seeping loss to Belgium yesterday.
At the end of three matchdays, it was the Kookaburras leading the 2016 Champions Trophy standings with seven points while Great Britain, India and Belgium occupied the next three spots in terms of goal difference with four points apiece. Halfway through the tournament, India were looking to set things right on Tuesday after yesterday’s disappointing loss to Belgium at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London.
Prolific forward SV Sunil adorned the captain’s armband as India started on the front foot against the 5th placed Korean side. Although it was quite an attacking first quarter from the Indian perspective, the all-important breakthrough never arrived and it remained goalless. Danish Mujtaba and Talwinder Singh would’ve been particularly displeased with their back-to-back wasteful exploits inside the Korean circle just before the 15th minute ended.
As if to replicate their first quarter show, the Blueshirts maintained a similar share of possession and strong buildup play to foray into the opponents’ final third but couldn’t stir the scoresheets. Had Sunil gotten hold of Akashdeep’s long 23rd-minute forward pass, they still could’ve salvaged something from the first half since the acting skipper didn’t have anyone other than keeper Hong to beat. Yet, for all of those eight circle penetrations and four shots on goal, there was nothing to show as the referee’s whistle brought the game into the half-time interval.
At half-time, India were tied 0-0 with Korea
The way Indians initiated proceedings in the second half, coach Roelant Oltmans must’ve been pleased with his players since they were much more convincing as a unit and an opening goal in their favour looked imminent. It should be noted that the Koreans defended brilliantly inside the D for long stretches without conceding a single penalty corner.
Skipper Sunil gives India the lead
As Manpreet Singh pierced the midfield with another long range pass, SV Sunil latched onto the ball and dribbled his way into the Korean circle amidst several vigilant defenders. However, a quick one-two with Akashdeep meant that the Indian captain reclaimed control of the ball with just the keeper Doopyo Hong guarding the woodwork. With Hong floored on the right, Sunil pushed it into the back of the net to put India in the driver’s seat in the 39th minute with a one-goal lead.
India finally earned a couple of penalty corners which were cleared by the resilient Korean defence. As the action heated up in the final quarter, Lee Namyong was cautioned and Korea was down to 10 men for two minutes. In the 52nd minute, the lost their referral with a failed appeal, and India looked poised for a flat victory.
Dramatic final 5 minutes
In the 57th minute, almost out of nowhere, Korea found an equaliser via Kim Juhun’s deft deflection that slipped through PR Sreejesh’s legs and clattered into the Indian goal.
Yet another frustrating draw fast approaching, the Indian attack responded in striking fashion. Within twenty seconds, it was Talwinder’s inch-perfect cross onto Nikkin Thimmaiah’s stick that headed into the Korean goal to make it 2-1 for India which stood till the final whistle and steered India to the second place in the standings behind Australia.