India go down in final hurdle

HARD TOIL: India's Simranjeet in action against Korea during the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final on Saturday. PTI

Lower-ranked Korea stunned India 4-2 in the penalty shoot-out to lift the Azlan Shah Cup hockey title after the five-time champions conceded an equaliser in the final quarter to finish one-all after regulation time in the summit clash here Saturday.

Going into the title clash, world no. 5 India were clear favourites to lift their sixth Azlan Shah title against the 17th ranked Koreans. And the Indians started in the right earnest, taking the lead early through Simranjeet Singh’s field strike in the ninth minute.

The Koreans produced a resolute defence to keep the Indian forward line under tight vigil, while also pressing hard in search of the equaliser.

Korea’s efforts finally paid dividend in the 47th minute when they were awarded a penalty stroke. The Indians went for the video referral but the penalty decision stayed and Jang Jong Hyun made no mistake in drawing parity for his side. Two minutes from the hooter, India earned a penalty corner but to no avail as the match went into shoot-out.

In the shoot-out, the Indians missed their first, fourth and fifth attempts and converted just two, while the Koreans just missed their third strike to win the thrilling contest 4-2 and lift the crown for the third time in the history of the invitational tournament.

For India, Mandeep Singh, Sumit Kumar Junior and Sumit missed from the one-on-one penalty shoot-out situation, while experienced Birendra Lakra and Varun Kumar, converted their chances.

Defending the goal in the shoot-out for India was young Kishan B Pathak in place of experienced P R Sreejesh. In the shoot-out, Jii Woo Cheon, Lee Jungjun, Jung Manjae and Lee Namyong scored for Korea.

For India, missed opportunities proved their undoing. India made a couple of circle entries in quick-succession early in the game, the Korean defence proved impenetrable.

It took accurate short passes and effective teamwork by forwards Mandeep Singh and Sumit Kumar (Junior) to win India a brilliant opportunity to score in the first quarter. A quick assist by Sumit to Simranjeet earned India it’s first goal in the ninth minute.

India were punished when an infringement by defender Amit Rohidas on the baseline trying to tackle Korea skipper Namyong was penalised with a penalty stroke.

Jonghyun made no mistake in sending the ball past the goalkeeper in the 47th minute.

Hosts Malaysia finished third after beating Canada 4-2 in the third-fourth place classification match. 

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India go down in final hurdle

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