Tuesday, September 30, 2014

India sneak past Korea 1-0 to set up final clash with Pakistan

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

Playing a higher ranked side in front of their home crowd in the semifinals of the Asian Games was always going to be a tough ask and the way proceedings unfolded, it did look that India would have a tough job overcoming the Korean hurdle in Incheon.

The Sardar Singh-led side overcame the first half sloppiness and put up a much more enterprising second half performance to outwit Korea by a solitary goal to reach the final of the Asian Games. India will play the winner of the second semifinal between Pakistan and Malaysia.

The much-hyped match saw both teams exercise caution in the early exchanges. Incisive moves were not the order of the day in the opening quarter as both sides took their own sweet time to size each other up. India finally broke free in the second quarter forcing a penalty corner, but the Korean goalkeeper Lee Myungho brought off a save with his right hand, which resulted in another PC. India could not capitalize. SV Sunil had an opportunity to convert a half chance into a goal, but the alert Korean defence bottled him up nullifying that raid. Gurbaj Singh showed promise essaying a cross, but no Indian player was there to make the most of it as the half-time scoreline read 0-0.

The Koreans slipped into fifth gear in the second half and asked several questions to the Indian defence, and thankfully the Indians managed to find answers to those questions. Comeback man Gurwinder Singh Chandi who had had a sedate tourney so far, had a chance to do the star turn when he only had to tap the ball in, but only managed to bungle.

However, the slip-up did not cost India dearly as Akashdeep Singh once again underlined his liking for scoring goals against Korea finding the opening goal in the 44th minute off a nifty cross. The Indian youngster had scored a brace in India’s 3-0 win over Korea in their last meeting in the 2014 World Cup in The Hague.

Korea summoned desperate measures in the final quarter and gave the Indian defence some anxious moments when they won a penalty corner with two minutes remaining for the final hooter. India foiled that set-piece and held firm to book their final berth.

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