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India storm into Azlan Cup semis

India made light of a rain interruption and yellow card suspension to score a convincing 3-0 win over Korea.

india Updated: Jul 22, 2006 15:56 IST

India made light of a three-hour rain interruption and a yellow card suspension to score a convincing 3-0 win over Korea and sail into the semi-finals of the 15th Sultan Azlan Shah eight-nation hockey tournament on Wednesday.

The win, which came through goals from Tejbir Singh (11th), Sandeep Singh (15th) and Tushar Khandekar (53rd), marked India's reaching the last-four stage in a major international event for the first time since 2003 when they won the Asia Cup.

India, who lost their opening match to Australia 1-4, ended the league engagements with six points from three matches.

The 1995 champions dictated the pace and exchanges against the Koreans whose sloppy midfield play also contributed to their defeat.

The Indian strategy was fairly obvious in the first half much of which they spent keeping possession of the ball and rotating it from side to side while biding their time to launch an attack.

Their first clear opening came in the 11th minute when Sandeep Singh picked Tejbir with a brilliant diagonal hit for the forward to deflect into the boards for the first goal.

Sandeep was in the thick of action four minutes later when Korean defender Jung Jong Hyun blundered by scooping the ball from within the circle to concede a penalty corner.

Sandeep was on target with a powerful drag-flick to give India a comfortable 2-0 lead.

Thereafter, the Indians did well to control the flow of the game until the rains commenced in the 24th to bring about a three-hour stoppage. 

The Koreans barely had a good look at the Indian goal as their midfield was barely allowed to function with any freedom due to tight marking and timely interceptions. They did apply pressure on re-start, but the Indian defence stood firm.

India did come under some pressure in the second half, but all credit to the deep defenders who covered and tackled well to deny the Koreans even a single penalty corner while they themselves earned two.

The Indians enjoyed plenty of turnarounds with the Koreans giving away the ball in the midfield. In the 53rd minute, Viren Rasquinha intercepted a midfield pass and sent Gagan Ajit Singh on his way.

Gagan released for Shivendra Singh who on tackled by the goalkeeper, flicked to Khandekar and the winger found the boards with an accurate hit.

India were reduced to 10 men in the last seven minutes when Tejbir was sent out on a yellow card suspension for a strong off-the-ball tackle on a Korean player, but they saw through the final moments without any more scare.

The third Indian goal effectively ended the Korean challenge.