Hockey: India to meet Pakistan in ACT final
Kuantan (Malaysia), Oct 29 (IANS) India defeated South Korea in the semi-finals of the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament here on Saturday to set up a title clash with arch-rivals Pakistan.
The Indians held off a strong challenge from the Koreans to win 5-4 (2-2) via penalty shoot-out in the first semi-final of the day.
The two sides were locked 2-2 at the end of the regulation time. For India, Talwinder Singh, Ramandeep Singh found the target in the regulation time while Seo Inwoo and Yang Jihun scored for the Koreans.
In the penalty shoot-out, Sardar Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Akashdeep and Rupinder Pal Singh scored as India entered the final.
Rupinder also stepped up to convert the penalty stroke which was awarded to India after South Korean goalkeeper D. Hong hit the legs of Birendra Lakra with his stick during the fifth and final shootout effort.
Indian captain and goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, who took his place under the bar after being sidelined for two round-robin matches due to an ankle injury, stopped the fifth and final South Korean player in the penalty shoot-out, paving the way for India's win.
The second semi-final also had to be decided by penalty shoot-out as Pakistan scripted a 2-3 (1-1) victory over gritty Malaysia.
The arch-rivals from the sub-continent will meet in the final on Sunday.
Earlier, India tried to build up the early momentum right from the push-back at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium by penetrating the Korean defence.
But the South Koreans stood solid against India's probing attacks as they denied many attempts by applying sharp man-to-man marking.
Despite the various failed attempts, the Roelant Oltmans-coached side played with the same attacking strategy and soon it paid off as in the dying minutes of the first quarter.
Talwinder, who was not in his prime touch in this tournament, found some space and played a reverse hit to give India a vital 1-0 lead in the 14th minute.
Soon after conceding a goal, South Korea started counter-attacking and received their first penalty corner of the match but missed the chance for an equaliser.
In the second quarter, the South Koreans seemed much more disciplined and it paid off as a defensive error by Rupinder saw South Korea equalising in the 20th minute of the game. Inwoo slammed into the Indian net after Rupinder failed to trap the ball cleanly.
India, unlike the first quarter, tried to bring down the pace of the game. It seemed like they lost their momentum after the South Korean equaliser but soon the Indian mid-field started rotating the ball with purpose.
In the dying minutes of the second quarter, India got many chances to take the lead including a penalty corner that was denied by the South Korean custodian as both the teams went to half-time 1-1.
After the half-time, South Korea played with eight men in the circle while defending to look out for counter-attacks.
Soon the strategy paid off and they got a chance to take the lead but Rupinder denied it.
After witnessing this, India made their move and started pressing the Korean defence. In this process they got their third penalty corner but failed to convert it.
The third quarter saw India playing with the same strategy as they were playing in the first quarter but a crowded South Korean defence and predictable moves did not allow them to take the lead.
Both teams exchanged many shots and a few penalty corners in the final minutes of the quarter but failed to make the mark.
In the fourth quarter, South Korea were the first to get a penalty corner in the 53rd minute and they successfully converted it.
Yang Jihun's goal helped them take the lead as Sreejesh was beaten by a low flick.
The drama unfolded in the last five minutes of the game as India grabbed the scoring opportunity with both hands as Sardar Singh played a move from the left by-line. He gave a pass to Ramandeep, who did not make a mistake.
The last few seconds saw both teams trying to penetrate in the circle but were unable to find the winner, taking the game to the shoot-out where India prevailed.