IPOH (Malaysia) (TIP): India produced a spirited performance to beat Korea 4-1 in the penalty shoot-out after both the teams were locked at 2-2 at regulation time, to finish a creditable third in the 24th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Sunday.
The win is sure to act as a morale booster for the Indian team, which is witnessing a transition phase after new chief coach Paul van Ass took over from Terry Walsh barely a month ago.
The third place finish also marks a relatively good beginning for Van Ass, who was in his maiden assignment with the Indian team.
For India, who had earlier drawn 2-2 with Korea in the league stages, the victory came on the back of a stunning 4-2 win over world champions Australia on Saturday at the Azlan Shah Stadium.
India scored both their goals though field strikes from last match’s hat-trick man Nikkin Thimmaiah (10th minute) and Satbir Singh (22nd), while Korea scored from penalty corners converted by You Hyosik (20th) and Nam Hyunwoo (29th).
India’s vice-captain and goalkeeper PR Sreejesh had a fantastic day under the bar as he not only made numerous saves in the entire 60 minutes, but also turned out to be India’s hero in the shoot-out, denying two Korean efforts to help his side register the much-needed victory.
The only blemish for India on Sunday was penalty corners. The Sardar Singh-led side failed to secure a single set piece but their backline as usual crumbled under pressure and gave away seven short corners.
Both the teams were slow to get off the block and were sloppy in the initial few minutes.
It was India who had the first shy at the goal in the sixth minute but Akashdeep Singh shot wide after a scramble inside the circle.
Three minutes later, Korea secured their first penalty corner but Nam Hyunwoo’s effort couldn’t get past the defence of an agile Indian goalkeeper, Sreejesh.
The Indians took the lead in the next minute through last match’s hero Nikkin. Dharamvir Singh started the move and passed the ball to SK Uthappa, who beat a few Malaysian defenders to enter the circle from the right flank and then neatly pushed the ball towards Nikkin and he made no mistake in slapping the ball home from close range.
After a relatively sedate start, the Indians started to get into the groove as time passed by.
Five minutes into the second quarter Korea got their second penalty corner and You Hyosik scored from a rebound with a reverse shot after Jang Jonghyun’s dragflick was well saved by Sreejesh.
India restored their lead two minutes later through Satbir’s fine field effort. After stealing the ball at the midline, Satbir played a delightful one two with Dharmvir Singh before tapping in the ball pass Korean keeper Hong Doo Pyo.
But an unnecessary foul by Ramandeep Singh reduced India to 10-man in the last two minutes of the second quarter and that cost them dearly.