Indians storm into semifinals

Sardar Singh's men ride on goals from Raghunath, Mandeep

Indians storm into semifinals

PR 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 semifinals of the Asia Cup, here on Monday.    

India’s arch-rivals Pakistan have already made it to the last four stage from Pool A after beating hosts Malaysia 4-1.

The Indians put up an inspired performance and scored a goal in each half through VR 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.

The Indians started brightly and dominated the early exchanges. In the first half, India played possession hockey and utilised both the flanks to build up their attacks.  

The Indians need to thank their goalkeeper Sreejesh as he made as many as six-seven clear saves to keep a clean slate for his team. He also earned the man-of-the-match award.  

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 goalpost, beating goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho.
 But thereafter, the Indians should consider themselves lucky not to have conceded a goal as Korea put the Indian defence under continuous pressure with repeated raids.  
 The Koreans earned as many as five penalty corners in the opening half but failed to convert a single one. 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. If not for Sreejesh’s efforts, India could have very well lost the match. 

Young Mandeep took the game away from Korea scoring India’s second goal —- his fourth of the tournament – just five minutes from the hooter. 

Oman shock Bangladesh

Debutants Oman sent higher-ranked Bangladesh out of the semifinal race while keeping their hopes alive with a stunning 4-2 win in a Pool B match.

Oman capitalised on Bangaldesh’s fragile backline and scored through Hashim Ghanim Ramadan Al Shatri (29th), Mohammad Hoobais Al Shar (43rd), Rajab Bhasin Khatar (45th, 59th) to register the upset win and their first points in the tournament.

For Bangaldesh, Mohammad Roman Sarkar (53rd) and captain Md Mamunur Rahman Chayan (69th) were the goal-getters.

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