Goalkeeper P. R. Sreejesh starred in front of the goal to help India beat South Korea in the penalty shootout to enter the final of the fourth Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament, here on Saturday.
The second semifinal also had to be settled via a shootout as Pakistan beat host Malaysia 3-2 (1-1).
Recovering from his ankle injury to play in the semi-final at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium, Sreejesh saved South Korea’s last attempt to secure a hard-fought 5-4 win in the shootout after both the teams were locked 2-2 at the end of regulation time.
Sreejesh padded away the ball from the stick of Lee Dae-Yeol to clinch victory and seal India’s place in the summit clash.
This is India’s third entry into the final of the Asian Champions Trophy, whose inaugural edition it won in 2011 and were runners up to Pakistan in 2012.
Top-ranked India found the young Koreans tough opponents, who bounced back after conceding the initial lead and were in the lead briefly before India got the equaliser in regulation period.
Talwinder Singh gave India the initial lead with a field goal in the 15th minute, but the Koreans came back to score through Seo In-Woo’s strike from open play in the 21st minute and then took the lead from a penalty stroke conversion by Yang Ji-Hun in the 53rd.
The match went to shootout after Ramandeep Singh made it 2-2 for India in the 55th minute. In the shootout, Sardar Singh, Ramandeep Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh and Akashdeep Singh duly scored the first four attempts before Birendra Lakra was obstructed and the resultant penalty stroke was converted by Rupinder to give India all five successful strikes in the shootout.
For South Korea, captain Jung Man-Jae, Kim Hyeong-Jin and Lee Jung-Jun faced no problem in converting their attempts The fourth shot by Bae Jong-Suk was blocked by Sreejesh, but a penalty stroke was awarded for a stick-check by the Indian goalkeeper after Korea asked for a video referral and the resultant stroke was converted by Yang Ji-Hun.
It all came down to the last Korean shot and Sreejesh rose to the occasion to deny Lee Dae-Yeol to seal the affair.
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