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India beat Korea to keep hopes alive
July 06, 2005 01:14 IST
India took a decisive step towards a semi-final spot with a 3-1 victory over Korea in a crucial Pool E encounter of the Rabobank Men's Junior World Cup hockey tournament in Rotterdam on Tuesday.
Though the victory was far from convincing, India came away with three points that put them on par with Korea in the pool standings with nine points after four matches. It was Korea's first defeat.
India plays England on Wednesday. A win should clinch them a semi-final berth.
England, meanwhile, fought four a 2-2 draw with Egypt on the adjacent Stadium pitch, after being twice in arrears, with a 66th minute equaliser.
India's success was achieved amidst much anxiety. After taking a 2-0 lead, they became defensive and conceded a goal under pressure. However, Sandeep Singh's penalty-corner conversion in the 57th minute provided India the much-needed insurance.
Earlier, Birendar Lakra flicked home from a Vinaya free-hit in the 15th minute against the run of play and two minutes later Tushar Khandekar found the board after being put through by Lakra.
But the Indians failed to capitalise on the 2-0 lead and in the final seconds before half-time allowed Korea to pull a goal back when San Kewon Hung came good with a penalty-corner.
For India, having lost to Spain 0-4 on Monday, it was a do-or-die situation. The desperation reflected in the performance, with players yet again turning individualistic, especially inside the rival 25-yard area.
The Koreans, too, felt the pressure, but they showed far greater discipline and kept chipping away at the Indian defence. They wasted two penalty-corners in the first 12 minutes and with the Indians frequently back-pedalling, they were right on top.
It was at this juncture that the Indians scored from a breakaway move down the right flank that first led to a free-hit near the circle. Vinaya took it quickly and Lakra was on hand to slam home a deflection. The goal acted as a tonic as the Indians raised their game and struck again. This time, Khandekar capped a Lakra-Vinaya move.
Sitting pretty with a 2-0 lead, the Indian game almost went to pieces, much against expectations. Errors in the midfield and at the back helped the Koreans to mount pressure. For a while, the Indians absorbed the heat, before conceding a penalty-corner seconds before the half-time hooter and Hong made no mistake with an indirect effort.
Goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza was left stranded at the top of the circle as he charged out and Hong swept the ball to the boards.
On resumption, the Indians continued in their wayward manner. A couple of openings went abegging, while at the other end, the Koreans pressed hard.
Coach Harendra Singh heaped praise on his three midfielders -- Vinaya, Vivek Gupta and Nitin Kumar -- while expressing satisfaction at the team's overall performance.
"They showed plenty of skill and maturity. Overall, I am happy with the way the boys played to our plan. We focused on right flank attack and it worked well. Our next game, against England tomorrow, is very crucial, but I am confident that we will win and advance to the semi-finals," he said.