Lalit pulls India out of trouble

By October 22, 2016 November 1st, 2016 Blog, Newsroom
India's captain, Sardar Singh (left) in action against Korea during their QNET 4th Men's Asian Champions Trophy 2016 match at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium, Kuantan today. The match ended 1-1.

Kuantan (22 Oct, 2016): A rejuvenated Korea held top ranked India to a 1-1 draw and China outpaced Japan to triumph 2-1 today in the QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy at the Wisma Belia Hockey Stadium in Kuantan.India, ranked at World No 6, learned the hard way today against the Koreans who are five rungs below in the FIH World Rankings.

Unlike the easy scoring 10-2 victory over Japan three days ago, Roelant Oltmans’ India found the going tough against the red-shirted Korea as they battled all the way to keep the game in control for a single point.

India seemed a little rattled after Korea took the lead through Jeong Junwoo in the 11th minutes via a field goal, and all the Indians needed were an early goal to keep them in the game. And they got what they worked for two minutes into the third quarter when Lalit Upadhyay rammed his shot past Jeong to cut the lead.

But for India and Korea the day certainly belonged to goalkeepers Akash Chikte and Hong Doopyo who kept the marauding forwards from both sides at bay with quick reflexes. Indeed, India had the first glance at the Korean goalmouth early in the fourth minute following a 1-2 between Chananda Thimmaiah and Talwinder Singh only to see Hong in the way as Talwinder’s deflection lacked accuracy.

The Koreans, who needed to win this match at all cost after going down 0-1 to Pakistan on Friday to stay in contention for the semi-finals, came close to increasing the lead in the 14th minute when Kim Hyeongjin relayed the ball to an unmarked Seo Inwoo. Sensing trouble, Akash moved out of his line, narrowed the gap for Seo who could only flick the ball over out.

That was the best and closest the Koreans had of open field goal chances despite not making any in the four penalty corners that came their way and India had only two throughout the match.

India had a good chance of going ahead in the 48th minute when Chinglensana Singh deflected a cross from Surender Kumar on the right flank but the ball went straight into the pads of the Korean goalkeeper.

The two played hard game down to the final whistle and the 1-1 draw was truly acceptable to Korean head coach Paul Lissek when he said it was ‘like winning a gold medal’.

“Today I really felt like it was winning a gold medal. A small hockey-playing nation like Korea holding India to a 1-1 draw is a good result for us,” said the German, who harbours a top three finish in the Champions Trophy.

“India had so much of advantage in the match. After the initial five minutes Korea took control of the game but the Indians were a far exceptionally great side. That is why I am very satisfied with this result and our focus is on our next match against China on Monday,” said the German.

India’s next match is the much awaited epic of the QNET 4th Asian Champions Trophy when the face neighbours and traditional hockey rivals Pakistan on Sunday. It will the 166th match between the two nations that is expected to draw a good crowd at the Wisma Belia Hockey Sadium.

Olthmans was far from satisfied with the result of the match and feels India could have done far better job to move up the ladder in the table standings.

India has now four points – two behind host Malaysia who play Japan tomorrow while Pakistan is in third spot on three points followed by China (3), Korea (1) and Japan (0).

“In the first half we gave Korea too many opportunities. That itself pushed the team into defensive mode. It took us some time to get back into this tightly-marked match. I would always look for a win nothing less. Unfortunately, it ended in a draw and tomorrow we face Pakistan,” he said.

China came back from a 5-1 defeat against Malaysia to pull through with a 2-1 win over Japan and in the process earned the first three points. The Chinese had caused ripples in the Japanese defence and found plenty of and space to dribble into the scoring zone.

Yu Xin and Huang Jingcheng put China 2-0 ahead with field goals in the 19th and 37th minutes before the Japanese reduced the deficit in the 43rd minute via Hirotaka Zendana’s penalty corner.

“This is a great comeback after losing 5-1 to Malaysia. The boys played hard and well to contain Japan’s attacking machinery and credit to my young players. We will do our best against Korea,” said China’s coach Yang Liu.

Results: India 1 Korea 1; China 2 Japan 1.
Fixtures – Sunday (Oct 23): India v Pakistan (6.30pm); Malaysia v Japan (8.30pm).