India hit Korean wall, draw Asian Champions Trophy opener | Hockey - Hindustan Times
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India hit Korean wall, draw Asian Champions Trophy opener

By, New Delhi
Dec 14, 2021 09:42 PM IST

South Korea hold Tokyo bronze medallists India 2-2 draw after Manpreet Singh’s side led 2-0 at halftime.

Four months after they ended India’s 41-year medal drought at the Tokyo Olympics, Manpreet Singh-led men’s hockey team returned to action at the Asian Champions Trophy in Dhaka on Tuesday, only to be held to a hard-fought 2-2 draw by South Korea.

India hit Korean wall, draw Asian Champions Trophy opener(HOCKEY INDIA)
India hit Korean wall, draw Asian Champions Trophy opener(HOCKEY INDIA)

Placed 11 places below fifth-ranked India, Korea displayed remarkable defensive skills to thwart multiple circle raids throughout the match before scoring twice in five minutes in the second half to deny India a winning start.

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India, joint defending champions with Pakistan, were without a number of key players that starred at the Tokyo Olympics as part of coach Graham Reid’s transition plan. Veteran goalkeeper PR Sreejesh has been rested, and Krishan Pathak and Suraj Karkera have got a chance to guard India’s goalpost. Striker Akashdeep Singh, whose omission for Tokyo was debated in the run-up to the Games, made a comeback while Tokyo Olympians Mandeep Singh and Vivek Sagar Prasad have been rested.

The five-nation tournament also presents Reid an opportunity to test young defenders such as Mandeep Mor, Shilanand Lakra and Dipsan Tirkey following the retirements of Rupinderpal Singh and Birendra Lakra.

India take early lead

India struck early with forward Lalit Upadhyay scoring in the third minute. Upadhyay received a pin-point aerial pass inside the Korean ‘D’ and beat his marker with a feint before slotting past goalkeeper Kim Jae-hyeon.

India dominated possession in the first two quarters—58% to Korea’s 42%—as the latter stayed deep, trusting their defenders to stop waves of Indian attacks. India went full press after their first goal and made multiple circle entries, but couldn’t get past the Korean backline.

Reid played forward Shamsher Singh as an attacking midfielder, and the move resulted in better ball control. India had two shots on goal within seven minutes of going 1-0 up, but the Korean defence stood firm. The second of those chances came via a fierce Tomahawk (reverse hit) from comeback man Akashdeep Singh, but Kim was up to the task again.

By the end of the first half, India had 14 circle entries to Korea’s eight, but only one was converted.

India finally doubled their lead early in the third quarter when vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh scored through a penalty corner. The Koreans amped up their attacks and began to make repeated inroads into the Indian half.

They were eventually rewarded with a penalty corner, and 37-year-old Jang Jong-hyun, playing his 288th match, beat goalkeeper Pathak on his right. Kim Jae-hyeon then scored a fine field goal within 40 seconds in the fourth quarter to draw parity, beating Karkera, who had just replaced Pathak.

India earned three penalty corners in the last ten minutes, including one in the final minute, but goalkeeper Kim proved insurmountable. Not only was his anticipation accurate against India’s drag flickers, he also denied India a number of potentially dangerous rebounds.

India were a man short for five minutes in the last two quarters, with Upadhyay and Mor getting yellow cards in the third and fourth quarter respectively.

Speaking at the post-match ceremony, Manpreet Singh rued the suspensions while emphasising on the need to convert chances.

“It was just our first match, but we conceded unnecessary cards. Going forward, we would like to avoid that. Also, we need to score off opportunities that we create inside the circle. Full credit to Korea for playing so well,” he said.

Japan and Pakistan drew goalless. India next play hosts Bangladesh on Wednesday.

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