This piece was published in Sportskeeda.com
The Chinese men’s hockey team are known to give the Indians a hard run for their money. We all remember the 2009 Asia Cup in Kuantan, where China stunned India with a 2-2 draw forcing the latter out of the semifinals of the Asia Cup for the first time ever. On Saturday at the Seonhak Hockey Stadium, the Indians were forced to dig deep as the Chinese offered staunch resistance and perhaps raised visions of a surprise win and sneak into the semis as winning was the only way they could make it to the last four stage, while a draw was enough for India to make the cut.
Both teams exercised caution and create few scoring chances in the first half. India struggled to dish out their known free-flowing hockey as Chinese were not easily giving them open spaces to mount their raids. Collectively, India failed to jell as a unit and had their first penalty corner in the closing stages of the opening half, but they wasted that opportunity as the half-time scoreline read 0-0.
India desperately needed to open their account as the doughty Chinese can always surprise with a late goal and seal their semis route, but the Indians really went for broke and Vokkaliga Raghunath, who messed up as many as eight short corner opportunities in the game against Oman, converted India’s second penalty corner with a fierce flick beating Chinese Xu Rui all ends up in the 40th minute.
Birendra Lakra chalked up a surprise second goal off a nice assist by Akashdeep Singh at the stroke of the third quarter hooter – clearly they turned things around in the third quarter.
India exerted pressure in the final quarter and forced three PCs but it all went abegging. China also gave the Indian defence some scare earning three penalty corners, but denied from scoring.
To tell the truth, India did pull through with a 2-0 win, but it was a pretty unconvincing win. They will need to tighten all the loose ends in the semifinal clash against hosts Korea on Monday.