Semifinals berth sealed, India edge out South Korea 3-2

Chennai: Their semifinals spot guaranteed, India prevailed over defending champions South Korea 3-2 in their fourth round-robin fixture of the Asian Champions Trophy here on Monday, maintaining their unbeaten run in the continental hockey tournament.

Even before the action got underway at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium, India had sealed their place in the semi-finals, following Japan’s loss to Malaysia earlier in the day.

Both teams began the match on a fast-paced note, playing mainly possession-based hockey.

In the sixth minute, the deadlock was broken by the hosts, as Nilakanta Sharma tapped the ball in after Sukhjeet Singh dribbled the ball past a couple of defenders.

Unfazed by the goal, Korea came up with a couple of chances of their own but the Indian defence was up to the task.

However, the Koreans did not take much time to equalise as Sunghyun Kim hammered it in after Manjae Jung’s low pass, in the 12th minute.

In the second quarter, it was all about India as they came up with as many as four chances and scored their second goal in the 23rd minute through a penalty corner.

The PC was successfully converted by Harmanpreet Singh, who hit the ball low to the right of the goalkeeper before beating him.

The Indians followed that up with more attacks, including a PC, but to no avail, as they maintained their slim 1-0 lead at half-time.

After the restart, Korea squandered a PC earned through video referral, even as Amit Rohidas was green-carded.

However, India came up with an attacking move and it resulted in a field goal by Mandeep Singh, as Shamsher Singh’s assist allowed the former to collect it comfortably and fire it in.

Korea received another PC but skipper Jonghyun Jang’s shot went wide. It was followed by three chances for India, with Karthi Selvam and Mandeep Singh coming close, as the game moved into the fourth quarter.

Just two minutes into the final quarter, India earned a PC, which ultimately resulted in a penalty stroke. But, Harmanpreet’s attempt to go low towards the keeper’s right saw his effort being denied.

A minute later, a video referral allowed Korea to gain a PC, which resulted in it earning three more straight PCs. However, Jang failed to convert either of them.

India continued with their attacking intent, with a double save coming from the Korean goalie in the 50th minute off Mandeep and Sukhjeet’s shots.

It was followed by another series of PCs for Korea, while they also opted for a review for a possible PC, only to lose it.

Finally, in the 58th minute, Jihun Yang found the back of the net through a field goal, keeping the Indians on their toes.

Even as the Koreans looked for the equaliser, the Indian defence managed to hold on to the one-goal lead.

India will next be up against arch-rival Pakistan on Wednesday, while Korea, who remain in the top-four race, face Malaysia.