The two top teams in the 2023 Asian Champions Trophy faced off and India came away the deserving winner with a 3-2 victory against Korea at the Mayor Radhakrishnan stadium here on Monday.
The game was as close as the scoreline suggests, with the host being pushed all the way by the defending champion Korea.
Starting well, India took control of the game and opened up the field, switching flanks constantly, moving up and piercing the Korean defence. It was rewarded immediately, a fluent exchange between Sumit and Sukhjeet Singh resulting in a well-placed Nilakanta Sharma tapping in the opener, right in the middle of the goal, in the 6th minute.
But the calmness and structure from its previous outing was missing as the erratic forwards kept conceding turnovers and hard-fought possession and the Koreans took full advantage of it, threatening with counterattacks every time they had the ball. One such move saw Sunghyun Kim catching the Indian defence napping and shooting-in to level in the 12th minute.
With the Indian midfield constantly rotating and allowing little space, the opposition started using aerial balls to bypass them from the 2nd quarter onwards, and to great effect. It was an equal game and the Indian forwards, despite their domination continued to have finishing issues, something coach Fulton will need to look at.
India also had just four penalty corners and even missed a penalty stroke while conceding 11 PCs, another thing the defence will need to control.
That India still came away winner is creditable given that the 4th quarter was almost entirely controlled by the Koreans, who almost made India pay the price.
Considering the past four meetings between the sides have all been draws and India last beat Korea way back in the 2018 edition of the competition, this would be a win it would gladly take ahead of the big clash against Pakistan.
India (Nilakanta Sharma 6’, Harmanpreet Singh 23’, Mandeep Singh 33’) bt Korea (Sunghyun Kim 12’, Jihun Yang 58’).