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India clinch Asia Cup hockey title

India staged a dramatic fight back to retain the Asia Cup hockey title with a pulsating 3-2 victory over S Korea, reports Sharad Deep.
By Sharad Deep | Hindustan Times, Hyderabad
UPDATED ON JUL 19, 2008 12:59 AM IST

It was Chak de India all over again at the Gacchibowli Stadium here on Friday evening as Diwakar Ram scored a ‘golden goal’ to see the hosts retain the junior Asia Cup hockey title, beating South Korea 3-2.

After missing two penalty-corners in the scheduled time, which ended in a 2-2 draw, all eyes were on ace drag-flicker Diwakar Ram, when the hosts were awarded a penalty-corner in the fourth minute of extra-time. And the cool as cucumber Diwakar did not lose his focus and shot the ball home in style.

With this goal, Diwakar completed a ‘Perfect 10’ as he has scored two goals each in the five matches he’s played.

Nam Hyun Woo scored both the goals for Korea, while S.V. Sunil and Diwakar Ram restored parity for India in the scheduled time. Down two goals to nil at the 59th minute mark, the Indians staged a remarkable comeback with captain Gurbaj Singh setting the tone with an accurate hit inside the circle. Following a goalmouth melee, S.V. Sunil sounded the boards with ease in the 60th minute (1-2).

Just before this, the Koreans were reduced to 10 men for five minutes as Jeon Byung Jin was shown the yellow card for rough play. This allowed the Indians to press hard, and in the 63rd minute, ace drag-flicker Diwakar Ram levelled the score with a zooming hit into the right corner of the goal (2-2).

Earlier, as expected, the Koreans maintained their rhythm from the word go and didn’t allow the Indians much leeway in the midfield. Nam Hyun Woo made no mistake in sounding the boards after he received a quick cross from Lee Dong Hyun from the left in the seventh minute (1-0).

This left the Indians a bit unnerved and they raised the frequency of their attacks, but Gurwinder Singh Chandi and S.V. Sunil missed easy chances in the ninth and 10th minutes, respectively. Two minutes later, Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh denied Korea’s Bae Jong Suk a chance with a brilliant save.

India’s penalty-corner opportunities in the 18th and 24th minutes went abegging as Korean goalkeeper Kim Jae Hyeon thwarted Diwakar Ram with élan on both occasions. At the midway mark, the score-line read 1-0.

At one moment in the second half, the Indians appeared losing their focus, spraying aimless long shots all over the place. But they were a transformed outfit in the last 10 minutes, turning the one-sided game into a thrilling encounter. The win also helped India qualify for next year’s Junior World Cup to be co-hosted by Singapore and Malaysia.

Earlier in the classification match for the 3rd and 4th places, Pakistan crushed Japan 7-2 after leading 2-0 at the break.

Final standings: 1-India, 2-Korea, 3-Pakistan, 4-Japan, 5-Malaysia, 6-Bangladesh, 7-Oman, 8-Singapore.

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