India stormed into the final of the Asia Cup in Chennai on Saturday, thrashing Japan 4-1 in the semifinals to set up a title clash with Korea.
It was a credible performance from a team that appears to be playing to win after a long time. Egged on by a full house, the Indian attack was relentless from the first minute to the last, taking up their goal tally to 50 in the tournament.
Though Japan did try to breach the Indian flanks, they rarely reached the striking circle. Bimal Lakra, Gurbaj Singh, Ignace and Prabodh Tirkey in the midfield were too strong and skilful for them. Behind them, the defence of Dilip Tirkey and William Xalxo was rock-solid.
India got their first shot at the goal in the 11th minute, when Shivendra Singh shot right at the goalkeeper. Two minutes later, a Tushar-Shivendra combination put India ahead.
Japan tried to use their speed and Anai Yoshiro was unlucky to see his shot hit the post. But that was the closest Japan came to scoring.
Man of the match Shivendra shone in the Indian attack, scoring the opener and setting up at least six more chances.
But the man who has been having a dream run here was again the hero. Prabhjot Singh scored twice to take his tally to 13 in the event. And both were beautiful, solo efforts.
The first was in the 23 rd minute, when he controlled the ball all the way across the length of the field, past a clutch of defenders and beat the goalkeeper. The second was in the final minute of the match. Except for a single-touch pass to Sardar Singh, it was a Prabhjot show all the way, from the circle to the goal
However, penalty corners remain a grey area. Raghunath, the hero of the previous game, was hardly played and India wasted the four PCs they earned.
In the other semifinal, South Korea beat Malaysia 2-1. The Asian Games champions, taking full advantage of a defensive Malaysian side, were on the attack from the word go.
The Malaysians did try to attack in patches but to no avail. The margin of victory could have been much more but for the Malaysian goalkeeper, Kumar Subramaniam. The Koreans earned seven penalty corners and tried a different variation every time, but failed to score every time.
In the classification matches, Pakistan thrashed Bangladesh 10-0 and will now play China for the fifth spot on Sunday. China beat Hong Kong 6-1. Singapore avoided a last-place finish by defeating Thailand 4-0.
India beat Japan 4-1
South Korea beat Malaysia 2-1