New Delhi, 5 October: Playing to a plan, India overpowered four-time champion South Korea 5-3 to storm into the final of the Men's Hockey tournament of the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China on Wednesday
Hardik Singh (5’), Mandeep Singh (11’), Lalit Kumar Upadhyay (15’), Amit Rohidas (24’) and Abhishek (54’) scored for the winners while Jung Manjae (17’, 20’, 42’) scored a hat-trick for South Korea.
The Craig Fulton-coached India had topped Pool A after winning all their group games. South Korea finished as Pool B runners-up to make the semis.
World no 3, India, started the match aggressively and took the lead in the fifth minute. A nifty passing move down the right carved open the Korean defence before Hardik Singh slotted home (1-0).
Mandeep Singh had a chance to increase the lead minutes later but the forward, who had already scored 11 goals coming into the match, shot over the goal from close range. He, however, didn’t have to wait long for his 12th of the tournament as he tapped in a Gurjant Singh pass to make it 2-0. Lalit Upadhyay added one more to India’s tally before the first quarter ended (3-0).
Jolted by India’s fiery start, Korea found an early response in the second quarter as Jung Manjae scored two - the first from a clever penalty corner routine and the second from open play - to reduce the deficit to a single goal.
Just when it looked like the Koreans had turned the tides in their favour, Amit Rohidas restored a two-goal cushion for India with a thunderous drag flick from a penalty corner. India led 4-2 at half-time.
After the break, India looked the better of the two sides going forward with Harmanpreet Singh running the play from deep. Despite the Indian dominance, though it was Korea who scored with Jung Manjae deflecting in from an indirect penalty corner to complete his hat-trick.
Korea came out the blocks hard in search of an equaliser in the final quarter and put the Indian defence under pressure. However, the defenders rode out the siege before Abhishek (54') finally broke Korean resistance as he latched on to a loose ball inside the circle and struck a powerful tomahawk into the nets to extend India's lead to 5-3.
Sanjay made crucial interceptions as Korea tried to trouble India's defence. They managed to hold off the opposition to qualify for the Final.
A win in the final will not only win India its fourth hockey gold medal at the Asian Games but will also secure an early Paris Olympic berth for Harmanpreet Singh and Co.