Defending champions India quelled a late Korean surge to eke out a narrow 3-2 victory and stretch their unbeaten run in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Malaysia today.
The Indian scorers were Arjun Halappa (10th minute), Tushar Khandker (45th) and Shivendra Singh (60th), while Korea scored through two penalty corner strikes by Nam Hyun Woo in the 12th and 70th minutes.
India began aggressively, mounting onslaughts with central midfielders Arjun Halappa and Vikas Pillay and setting up wingers Mandip Antil and Tushar Khandker, who penetrated and split the Korean defence.
The Indian onslaughts finally paid dividend in the 10th minute as Halappa, combined with Shivendra Singh, managed to draw out and wrong foot custodian Myung Ho to slot the ball home.
The Koreans retaliated immediately, stepping up the pace with swift run downs and off-the-ball play. They got their first goal when Nam Hyun Woo sank a picture perfect dragflick past Bharat Chetri in the top left in the 12th minute to draw parity.
India were awarded a series of opportunities in the form of seven penalty corners but the defending champions failed to convert any of them.
Dhananjay Mahadik not only lacked power for the set pieces but was also devoid of imagination for indirect variations. Surprisingly the second dragflicker, Lucknow youngster Amit Prabhakar, was not given any try.
India wasted two more chances to break back into the lead as first Shivendra pushed wide followed by Tushar Khandker being off target.
India were also lucky not to go into half time with a deficit as Vikas Pillay brought off a brilliant goal line save from a penalty corner.
India commenced the second half with more conviction and commendable ball rotation and could have taken the lead soon but Bharat Chikara pushed straight to the goalkeeper after being set up by captain Rajpal Singh. However, shortly after Khandker delicately deflected into the Korea goal in the 45th minute from Shivendra’s cross to put India ahead once again.
India further increased the lead to 3-1 in the 60th minute when Danish Mujtaba unleashed a rasper from the left to Shivendra and he did not disappoint.
The Koreans attacked unrelentingly in the final few minutes and Nam Hyun Woo got them the second goal at the stroke of full time.
India will next face world champions Australia tomorrow.