Asian Champions Trophy: India surrender lead, held 2-2 by Korea

December 15, 2021

HockeyAsian Champions Trophy


India’s return to the hockey field was littered with basic errors and lack of discipline as the Olympic bronze medallists squandered a two-goal lead to be held to a 2-2 draw by South Korea in their Asian Champions Trophy opener in Dhaka on Tuesday.

Towards the end of the third and fourth quarters, India were a man down for approximately five minutes each after Lalit Kumar Upadhyay and Mandeep Mor were shown yellow cards, thus giving South Korea a chance to walk away with a deserved point. In between the two yellow cards were a few two-minute sending-offs for Indian players, thus breaking the team’s rhythm.

This was India’s first match since winning the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. However, despite being ranked higher, Graham Reid’s side did not look comfortable against South Korea, who were strong defensively with their goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon in top form. The rustiness of playing for the first time since August and the lack of coordination, given that half of the players were having a competitive match after almost two years, were evident.

Yet, India had cruised to a 2-0 after a little over half an hour. Upadhyay opened the scoring in the third minute, beautifully controlling an aerial pass to put the ball past Jaehyeon. Despite conceding early, South Korea did not show any urgency to find the equaliser. They, in fact, barely threatened the Indian goal, making mistakes aplenty in the attacking third.

It looked game over for Korea after drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh scored India’s second goal from a penalty corner in the 33rd minute. However, that goal seemed to have woken up the Koreans, who fought their way back into the match. It helped their cause that the Indian players were shown cards for rash tackling and indiscipline.

It wasn’t clear why Upadhyay was sent to the sin bin in the third quarter. But soon after he trudged out, looking baffled, South Korea upped the ante and mounted a comeback by pulling a goal back in the 42nd minute. Four minutes later, the team that had struggled to make even one entry inside India’s ‘D’ in the first half, scored their second goal after Kim Hyeongjin got behind the last defender to put the ball past goalkeeper Suraj Karkera.

India pressed ahead in search of their third goal and even had one disallowed, but their hopes of a late winner evaporated after Mor was shown a yellow card for infringement. That meant India played the closing stages of the match with just 10 players, giving South Korea enough space to defend.

Skipper Manpreet Singh was prompt to say that cards were his team’s undoing. “We got too many cards, some of them unnecessary. We need to work on this area before our next matches,” Manpreet said. “South Korea played a very good game, kept fighting. This shows we cannot underestimate any team here. We hope to bounce back tomorrow.”

In the day’s other game, Pakistan held Japan to a goalless draw. On Wednesday, India will take on hosts Bangladesh, hoping to get their first win of the campaign.

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