Ipoh: P R Sreejesh produced a brilliant display under the bar as two-time champions India stunned title holders South Korea 2-0 in a Pool B match to breeze into the semi-finals of the Asia Cup hockey tournament, here on Monday.
The Indians put up an inspired performance and scored a goal in each half through V R Raghunath (6th minute) and Mandeep Singh (65th) to pick up their second win in the eight-nation event.
India, who need to win the tournament to qualify for next year’s World Cup at The Hague, Netherlands, had thumped minnows Oman 8-0 in their tournament opener.
They started brightly and dominated the early exchanges. In the first half, India played possessional hockey and utilised both the flanks to build up their attacks.
They, however, need to thank their goalkeeper Sreejesh as he made numerous saves. The clean slate earned him the Man of the Match award.
“There is only one man-of-the-match and I am happy that Sreejesh got it. But for me there is only one hero and that’s my team,” said interim coach Roelant Oltmans.
“We don’t have individuals, we are a team and we work as a team. We compete as a team and try to give our best performance as a team,” Oltmans said after the match at the Sultan Azlan Shah stadium.
The Indians stunned Korea early in the match taking the lead through Raghunath. The well built defender converted India’s first penalty corner with a powerful low dragflick to the right corner of the Korean goal past, beating goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho.
But thereafter, Korea put up relentless pressure on the Indian defence. India must consider themselves lucky that the repeated raids did not yield any result for Korea.
The Koreans earned as many five penalty corners in the opening half but failed to convert a single one.
An onrushing Gurmail Singh blocked the Nam Hyun Woo’s flick. Then an outstretched Sreejesh made one of his brilliant saves from Korea’s second short corner a few minutes later.
Five minutes from the break, India had a golden chance to double their lead but an unmarked Malak Singh shot wide from close range.
Towards the end of the opening half, the Indians unnecessarily invited pressure, conceding three more penalty corners.
But a brilliant Sreejesh under the goal once again came to India’s rescue to deny the Koreans. (PTI)