India squander two-goal lead, play 2-2 draw with South Korea in Hero Asian Hockey Champions Trophy opener

india's Harmanpreet Singh in action in the match against South Korea in the Hero Asian Hockey Champions Trophy opener, at Dhaka on December 14, 2021.

India squander two-goal lead, play 2-2 draw with South Korea in Hero Asian Hockey Champions Trophy opener

New Delhi, December 14, 2021

Defending champions India failed to hold on to a 2-0 lead and were held to a 2-2 draw by South Korea in their opening match of the Hero Asian Hockey Champions Trophy at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium in Dhaka, Bangladesh on Tuesday.

India started with a flourish, taking the lead in the 3rd minute through Lalit Upadhyay. It took them another 30 minutes to double the lead through Harmanpreet Singh (33').

The Koreans staged a stunning comeback and, in the space of four minutes, scored two goals through Jonghyun Jang (42') and Kim Hyeongjin (46') to draw parity and share the points.

Indians dominated the first half with better ball possession (58 per cent) and a higher number of circle penetrations but, after that third-minute goal, they failed to increase their lead. Three minutes into the second half the defending champions made it 2-0 but then the Koreans crowded their defense and the Indian strikers failed to cut through it for the next 27 minutes.

After Lalit gave the side an early lead, India had a good chance in the second quarter through Akashdeep Singh's tomahawk from the left top of the circle. But Korean goalie Kim Jaehyeon foiled this move. He came up with another brilliant save when he blocked Varun Kumar's powerful penalty corner shot and Mandeep Mor's attempt off the rebound was again cleared by the goalkeeper.

India increased the lead in the 33rd minute through Harmanpreet Singh who converted the third take of the penalty corner after the first two were blocked by Korea's first rusher.

After taking a 2-0 lead, the Indians made several forays into the rival half but could not find success while the Koreans, after being on the receiving end, started making counter moves.

The Korean tactics were to earn penalty corners by forcing Indians to make infringements in the circle and that strategy paid off well worked, as India conceded the first penalty corner of the match in the 42nd minute. After the two retakes, Jonghyun Jang put the ball past goalie Krishan Pathak (1-2).

The goal buoyed the Korean attack, which otherwise looked tentative in the first two quarters. They kept the pressure on the Indian defense in the final quarter and in the 46th minute Kim Hyeongjin scored a superb goal beating substitute keeper Suraj Karkera. (2-2).

The final few minutes saw India create PCs but they could not convert. The defending champions had drawn against Korea 1-1 at the same venue in the 2017 Hero Asia Cup. Korea was the only team India had not beaten in that victorious outing.

"Korea was really good today with their defense and their goalkeeper was quite outstanding. We expected them to give us a hard time and hence it was important we started well. But we couldn't keep up that momentum going into the third and fourth quarter," said skipper Manpreet Singh after the match.

However, he was confident the team would bounce back from this draw. "This was the first match of the tournament and we surely will bounce back tomorrow against Bangladesh," he said.

NNN

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