Gurjant salvages a hard-fought draw for India against KoreaOctober 19, 2017
Striker Gurjant Singh saved the day with a last minute equaliser as India eked out a fighting 1—1 draw against Korea in their first Super 4 stage match of the 10th men’s Asia Cup hockey tournament on Wednesday.
Unbeaten India looked the most convincing team in the tournament so far but the dangerous and defensive Koreans came tantalisingly close to register a stunning win over the the Manpreet Singh-led side. Despite enjoying the lions share of possession and having better scoring chances, the in-form Indian strikers found it difficult to breach the resolute Korean defence.
After a barren opening two quarters, Jungjun Lee (41st minute) gave Korea the lead before Gurjant scored (60th) just seconds before the final hooter to salvage a point for the Indians.
It was always expected to be a contest between Indian forwardline and Korea’s defence and it panned out that way only with the Koreans defending in numbers and relying on counter attacks.
Akahdeep Singh missed a sitter for India in the first quarter after he failed to connect the ball from close range with only the Korean goalkeeper to beat. Seconds before the end of the first quarter, India secured the only penalty corner of the match but it was wasted as they went for variation.
The second quarter saw a neck-and-neck tussle between the Indian strikers and Korean defence with both the sides not in a mood to give an inch to each other as the first half ended goal-less. Six minutes into the third quarter, India were in for a rude shock when Lee scored, chancing upon a lapse from Varun Kumar and Sumit in the Indian defence. Four minutes later, a brilliant run from Satbir Singh set up a fine ball for S V Sunil inside he Korean circle but the Indian striker failed to get a good touch.
Trailing by a goal, it was Indian attack all the way in the fourth and final quarters but the Koreans played smart hockey and defended in numbers. They did not give the Indian strikers any space to create chances.
Four minutes from the final hooter, India withdrew goalkeeper Suraj Karkera for an extra player and the move paid rich dividends as Gurjant finally scored the much-needed equaliser in the last minute of the match.
The Indians went full throttle and the move paid off when Gurjant scored from a rebound after his initial shot was saved by the Korean goalkeeper, much to the relief of new chief coach Sjoerd Marijne.
India will next play impressive Malaysia in their second Super 4 stage match on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Malaysia defeated Pakistan 3—2 in another Super 4 encounter.
India’s last Super 4 match is against arch-rivals Pakistan, whom they have defeated 3—1 in the pool stages. As per the tournament rules, the top two teams from the Super 4 stage will qualify for the final to be held on Sunday.