India-South Korea men’s hockey encounters have invariably gone right down to the wire, and it was no different at the GBK Stadium in Jakarta, where India fought valiantly to eke out a 4-4 draw against the four-time Asia Cup champions – a result that puts them of contention for a final berth as their task was made sterner earlier by Malaysia, who eased past Japan 5-0 to sit on the top of the tree in the Super 4s stage.
It was a match that panned out to be a great advertisement for hockey. In a must-win game Nilam Sanjeep Xess choose the right corner to outwit Korean goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon to give India an early goal. South Korea bounced back when vastly experienced drag-flicker Jang Jonghyun made the most of a shortie. The Koreans seemed to run away with the game when Ji Woo Cheon put them in the lead after a smart steal by Lee Jungjun off Pawan Rajbhar.
It once again needed a set-piece from India to equalise the scoreline – Dipsun Tirkey fired home a penalty corner and a few moments later Vishnukant Singh darted down the middle and fed Sheshe Gowda, who slammed from an acute angle – it was the maiden international goal for the Indian Railway attacking midfielder. Just when one thought India would head into the half-time break with a slender lead, Kim JungHoo scored from the left with a Ji Woo Cheon assist.
Sheshe Gowda injected more joy in the Indian camp when he drilled in a cross from the right with Shakthivel Mareeswaran just having to tap in for his maiden international goal. The smile on the Tamil Nadu youngster said it all. The Koreans were no way going to give up – an innocous outside the ‘D’ hit from Lee Seunghoon was deflected home by Jung Manjae even as the Indian defence was caught napping.
With the scoreline reading 4-4 going into the final quarter, the South Korean deep defence put their best forward denying Indians any opportunity to mount a comeback. Korean goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon made a couple of crucial saves to take his side into the final where they would face Malaysia. India can take a lot of heart from the 4-4 draw and would lock horns with Japan in the bronze medal play-off tie.