IPOH (MALAYSIA): Lower-ranked South Korea stunned India 4-2 in the penalty shootout to lift the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey title after the five-time champions conceded an equaliser in the final quarter to end at 1-1 after regulation time in the summit clash here on 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 a tight vigil on the Indian forward line, while also pressing hard in search of the equaliser.
Korea’s efforts finally paid dividends in the 47th minute when they were awarded a penalty stroke. The Indians went for the video referral but the 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 shootout.
In the shootout, 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 shootout situation, while experienced Birendra Lakra and Varun Kumar converted their chances.
Defending the goal in the shootout for India was young Kishan B Pathak in place of the experienced PR Sreejesh. Jii Woo Cheon, Lee Jungjun, Jung Manjae and Lee Namyong scored for Korea.
The Indians were undone by missed opportunities as they created numerous scoring chances but failed to utilise them.
Though India made a couple of circle entries in quick succession early in the game, the Korean defence was tough to breach.
It took accurate, short passes and effective teamwork by forwards Mandeep Singh and Sumit Kumar (Junior) that won India a brilliant opportunity to score in the first quarter. A quick assist by Sumit Kumar Junior to Simranjeet earned India their first goal in the ninth minute. Korea upped the ante as they made two good circle entries but an alert Indian defence thwarted them.
With less than a minute remaining for the first hooter, Gurinder Singh earned India’s first penalty corner but the dragflicker could not get it past the Korean defenders.
India began the second quarter well with Sumit assisting Simranjeet, who took a backhand shot from top of the circle. The effort, however, was well-defended by Korean goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon.
With little over five minutes remaining before half-time, India earned their second penalty corner bur Varun Kumar’s powerful flick was stopped by goalkeeper Jaehyeon.
Goals continued to elude India in the third quarter despite some excellent attempts.