Jakarta: Playing to a plan, defending champion India outlasted title contender Korea 5-3 to record their fourth successive win in the Men’s hockey competition in the 18th Asian Games here on Sunday.
For India, who led 3-0 at halftime, Rupinder Pal, K Chengalesana Singh, Lalit Upadhyay, Manpreet and Akashdeep Singh were the goal scorers. Korean skipper Manjae Jung (2) and Jang Jonghyun scored for the losers.
Earlier, Japan routed Hong Kong 13-0; Bangladesh beat Thailand 3-1, Oman defeated Kazakhstan 4-0, and Sri Lanka outlasted Indonesia 3-1.
In a fast-paced encounter, India surprised the Korea with a tearaway move in the very first minute, which fetched them a penalty corner. Harmanpreet’s shot was blocked by a defender resulting a stroke. Rupinder Pal made no mistake in converting it for 1-0 lead.
Three minutes later India increased the tally when K Chenglesane Singh intercepted a cross and sent the ball home leaving the Koreans bewildered (2-0).
The early lead buoyed the Indians, who increased the pressure by mounting an all-out assault and the Korean defence came under pressure.
The Indians had the chance to further consolidate the lead, but the Korean goalkeeper Doopya Hong brought off two super saves-once he blocked a Mandeep Singh shot and then frustrated Akashdeep Singh.
Hong then cleared Rupinder Pal’s drag-flick off a penalty corner. However, the Korean citadel fell for the third time in the 16th minute when unmarked Lalit Upadhyay took advantage of the defensive lapse to send the ball into the cave (3-0).
The Koreans tried to breach the Indian defence but their strikers turned out to be poor marksmen and they could not take advantage of the chances that came their way.
The second half opened on a dramatic note with the Koreans coming hard on the Indians scoring two goals in as many minutes to reduce the gap.
Two minutes into this session, Koreans earned their third penalty corner and this time Manjae Jung was bang on target (1-3).
A minute later Koreans made a move from the middle and Jung held on to a ball and with a powerful drive sent the ball into the goal.
The two goals spurred the Koreans, who went all out for the equaliser but in the process left their defence exposed. Manpreet Singh took advantage of this situation and ran down from the left flank and with a super reverse shot increased the lead again for India.
Five minutes from the final whistle, Akashdeep scored the fifth goal to seal the match for India. However, Koreans reduced the margin when Jang Jong-hyun converted a penalty corner to make it 3-5, a few seconds before the end.
Former National Sports Editor of UNI writes for Sakal Times