India was denied a winning start to their campaign at the Men’s Asian Champions Trophy with a spirited Korean team holding the defending champions to a thrilling 2-2 draw here at the Maulana Bhasani Hockey Stadium.
For India, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay (3’) and Harmanpreet Singh (33’) scored while Jonghyun Jang (42’) and Kim Hyeongjin (46’) scored in Korea’s resurgence. Although it was India who dominated the proceedings in the first and second quarter with better ball possession (58 percent) and a higher number of circle penetrations (14 for India and 8 for Korea), the Korean side rallied on a strong defensive structure in the third and fourth quarter to deny any opportunity for India to score. After Lalit put India ahead early in the game with a fine field goal, converted brilliantly after controlling the ball upon receiving an aerial pass in the attacking circle, India created another fine opportunity in the second quarter through Akashdeep Singh’s tomahawk from the left top of the circle. But a highly vigilant Korean goalie Kim Jaehyeon made a fine save to keep India from extending the lead. He came up with another brilliant save when India won their first PC of the match only minutes before the end of the second quarter. It was Varun Kumar who took the shot which rebounded off Kim’s pads but newcomer Mandeep Mor’s attempt off the rebound too was well saved by the Korean goalie.
After the ten-minute half-time break, India extended their lead to 2-0 in the 33rd minute with a fiercely struck penalty corner converted by Harmanpreet Singh. It was India’s third take of the PC after the first two were blocked by Korea’s first rusher. Even though India created several chances in the following minutes, they could not find success even as Korea had successfully begun to make inroads into India’s circle. Their tactic to force India to make infringements in defence worked, as India conceded the first PC of the match in the 42nd minute. After the two retakes, Jonghyun Jang successfully put the ball past India’s goalie Krishan Pathak..They continued to challenge the Indian defence in the final quarter and even found success in the 46th minute when Kim Hyeongjin converted a fine field goal which could not be stopped by India’s young keeper Suraj Karkera. The final few minutes saw India create PCs but could not convert, thus settling for a 2-2 draw. Incidentally, India had drawn against Korea 1-1 at the same venue in 2017 during their successful campaign at the Hero Asia Cup.