India survived a late match scare from the Koreans to seal a 2-1 victory in their fourth match of the Champions Trophy 2016. Chandanda Thimmaiah scored a 57th minute goal to ward off a late Korean surge after SV Sunil had scored the first ably supported by Raghunath and Talwinder earlier.
After a thrilling draw with Germany and an impressive win over hosts Great Britain, India lost momentum after the 1-2 loss to Belgium. In third place after three matches in the Champions Trophy 2016, India looked to inch closer to the final with a win over South Korea. A win for the South Koreans meant they would go past India in the table, making this a crucial match for both teams. The South Koreans came into the match with some disappointing losses to Australia and Great Britain after their win against Belgium.
India got the match underway looking to build on their decent start to the tournament. They started off on the front foot but it didn’t take long for Korea to get into the action. Both teams were looking to get an early goal and hold the advantage, albeit with some caution. With four minutes left in the first quarter, Mandeep stole the ball from a Korean defender well into their half and looked to square it to Talwinder Singh, but Yang Jihun reacted quickly to cut the pass and end the dangerous move. India seemed the better team in the first 15, with Raghunath’s sturdy defense and Uthappa’s clean passing particularly notable.
India started the second quarter in similar fashion with a final ball appearing to be the only aspect lacking in their game-play. Some exquisite passes from SV Sunil and Chinglensena brought India close to scoring, but a bit of hard luck and good keeping from Hoong Dopyo meant the scores stayed level. The Men in Blue looked certain to open the scoring in Match No.18. Korea found their rhythm in the final five minutes of the second quarter with some strong defense and good movement off the ball. They did bring the Indian custodian PR Sreejesh into the game in the 29th minute with a quick pass that needed him to kick the ball away before Raghunath put it out of bounds.
By the end of the 1st half, India had dominated the stats - possession, circle penetrations and shots. Korea needed to up the ante substantially to stop the match from slipping away from their grasp. They started off the second half looking to win a goal from their long, aerial balls which were causing India some discomfort. India’s professionalism yielded the first breakthrough in the 39th minute when some good pressing gave Akashdeep the ball. He passed it to Harmanpreet who returned the favour. Akashdeeep and SV Sunil played a lovely one-two which brought the skipper one-on-one with the Korean keeper. The skipper displayed some excellent stick-work to get past the keeper and slot it in making it 1-0. This added confidence to the already-brimming Indian team, and they won their first penalty corner, which though was shamefully wasted. Korea did try to fight back, but India’s defense held strong going into the third quarter break with the single goal lead.
The last quarter started with India trying to add to their lead winning a penalty corner in the 2nd minute after the restart. The Korean defense was quick to react, closing down on Raghunath who could only hit it across a defender. The resulting corner again could not be taken advantage of. Harmanpreet’s good skill kept giving India chances inside the circle with the Koreans having to block shots or bring Hoong Dopyo into play. Absolutely dramatic scenes followed with Korea’s determination giving them an equaliser with four minutes left on the clock. A quick, sliding ball allowed Kim Juhun to tick the ball in. Seconds later, the Korean defense was caught napping on India's counter-attack with a square ball from Talwinder Singh allowing Thimmaiah to tap it in. The Indian defense saw off the final three minutes to pick three valuable points in the tournament and make a strong case for the finals.
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