The Manpreet Singh-led India held South Korea to a 1-1 draw in their first match of Super 4s at Dhaka, Bangladesh. Despite repeated attacks on both ends, India’s and Korea’s defence held firm. Finally, Korea’s Jungjun Lee broke the deadlock in the third quarter. In the fourth and final quarter, Gurjant Singh equalised for India in the dying minutes of the game. Thus, India was able to continue their unbeaten run. Meanwhile, Malaysia defeated Pakistan 3-2 in an earlier game at the Asia Cup.
As the match got underway, South Korea went on the attack first. But the defensive quartet, Akash Chikte, Harmanpreet, Dipas and Surender, held firm. The Koreans were very tightly knit as the Indians tried to break through the middle. Soon, India got a break but couldn’t convert it. South Korea then began to test the defence with high balls and were more fluent. Chikte managed to parry away Korea’s first strike, India’s response only went wide. The Indians couldn’t even convert a penalty into a goal and seemed to be out of sorts. As the first quarter ended, the action was fast-paced but they were still goalless.
India changed tactics and began to stretch the field. Korea one again kicked off the attack but the defence was rock solid. The Indian team began exerting pressure, but were hanging onto the ball too much. Neither team were giving an inch and the ball just kept circulating around the pitch. India fired a shot in but the South Koreans were ready. Desperation began to set in the Indian camp and they started to shoot blindly. Meanwhile, Korea were controlling the pace. Such was the ferocity of the game that a South Korean player limped off injured. One of India’s main mistakes was, when an opportunity knocked, no players were in the right place at the right time. The 2nd quarter ended with the status quo intact.
As if on cue, South Korea started to attack and Akash Chikte pulled off 2 stunning saves. The score was still 0-0, but India was showing signs of cracking. They began to lose possession due to silly errors. Korea started sniffing blood and tried exploiting every little error. And then it happened, Varun Kumar slipped up and Jungjun Lee pounced immediately. The mistake was costly and Chikte was just a sitting duck. Korea broke the deadlock to lead 1-0. Was this the end of the road for India? South Korea were firmly in the driver’s seat. As the 3rd quarter drew to a close, the score read 1-0 to South Korea.
India were truly on the backfoot and yet more mistakes from Varun Kumar. One could tell that India was trying to play it safe. The match was extremely tight and India only had 1 penalty corner while Korea had none. Later into the match, India managed to win more penalty corners but the ball never found its way into the back of the net. Time was running out for the Men in Blue. Akashdeep missed an opportunity which was crucial. India lost a couple of penalty corner appeals. With just minutes to go, Gurjant Singh spared India the blushes with a last gasp goal. The match ended with a 1-1 draw and a point each.
India will now face Malaysia tomorrow for a chance to top the table. They have a lot od work to do. Meanwhile, India’s and South Korea’s head-to-head score is 6-3 in India’s favour with 2 draws.