The Indian Men’s Hockey Team secured the top spot in the Pool stages of the 5th Men’s Hero Asian Champions Trophy 2018 as they defeated South Korea 4-1 in their fifth and final round robin match held in Muscat, Oman at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex on Wednesday, 24 October.
The Indian team secured the three points through Harmanpreet Singh's hat-trick of goals scored in the 5th, 47th and 59th minutes and Gurjant Singh's 10th-minute strike which saw India secure the top spot in Pool Standings with a tally of 13 points from their five matches and a goal difference of 25, and progress to the Semi-Final match of the competition.
Having played a goalless draw against Malaysia on Tuesday, 23 October, the Indian team looked to cement their position at the top of the Pool Standings by attacking the South Koreans from the opening whistle.
The Indian team maintained possession in the opening few minutes and were awarded their first Penalty Corner in the 5th minute which was fiercely struck in the top right corner by drag-flicker Harmanpreet Singh, to give India the lead.
In the following minutes, South Korea seemed content in sitting back and maintaining a compact structure, which made it difficult for the Indians to break through but in the 9th minute, Striker Akashdeep Singh had a chance to score but saw his shot blaze over the crossbar.
Good game-reading in the following minute saw the World No 5 team, extend their lead to two goals as they scored through a counter attack, in which Harmanpreet Singh found Gurjant Singh inside the South Korean circle with a precise long pass, the young striker obliging by making a turn and shooting into the top left corner with a tomahawk.
India started the second quarter with some high pressing again but it was South Korea's turn to open their account as they scored in the 20th minute against the run of play when a clearance by Surender Kumar was intercepted by a Korean player and passed onto Lee Seungil on the right side of the Indian circle, and the Korean Captain struck a vicious shot from a tight angle to beat PR Sreejesh and make the scores 2-1.
Two minutes later, South Korea won their first Penalty Corner but the resulting execution was blocked by the first rusher, Chinglensana Singh Kangujam. Both the teams had their chances before the half-time break but neither could produce the goods in the final third as India took their 2-1 lead into the interval.
The third period started on an anxious note for India as the South Koreans scored inside 29 seconds, but the goal was disallowed after a successful referral by the Indian team. Another referral five minutes later, but this time for the World No. 14 side saw them win another Penalty Corner, but the resulting execution was well defended by Indian Captain Manpreet Singh, who saw away the danger.
Both the teams battled for possession throughout the third quarter but could not find any real opening.
It was only in the fourth quarter that India finally managed to make the most of their opportunity as Harmanpreet Singh converted his second Penalty Corner, when he thrashed the ball into the top left corner, past South Korean Goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon to extend India's lead to 3-1 after 47 minutes. South Korea tried to make a comeback as they were awarded a Penalty Corner in the 54th minute, but Indian Goalkeeper Krishan B Pathak made a great reflex save off Jang Jonghyun's slider shot to deny the South Korean.
India made sure that they rotated possession well in the final few minutes and created another chance in the 59th minute as Striker Mandeep Singh was blocked by a Korean defender inside the circle.
Playing with a kicking back for the final few moments, South Korea could not effectively defend the Penalty Corner as Harmanpreet Singh scored to complete his hat-trick and secure the three points for India.
The Indian Men’s Hockey Team will play their Semi-Final match of the competition on Saturday, 27 October.
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