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India rout Korea, finish seventh

August 27, 2004 12:51 IST

India saved their best for last as they beat South Korea on Friday to finish their engagements in the Olympic men's hockey tournament on a winning note.

A 5-2 victory enabled the eight-time Olympic champions take seventh place, the same position they ended up in at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

The Koreans, silver medallists at Sydney, were shunted to eighth place.

There was a refreshing change in India's play. With all lost and only pride to play for, there was no pressure to perform. For the first time in the tournament there was fluency in the attack, which came about mainly because the midfielders used the width of the field to unsettle the hard-running Koreans.

India started without Dhanraj Pillay, who was introduced only ten minutes from the end after Viren Rasquinha left the field following an injury. Prabhjot Singh and Gagan Ajit played as roving forwards, the latter playing deep to exploit the long ball.

And four minutes from the start he struck after outrunning the Korean defenders. Another goal by him in the 11th minute put India 2-0 up.

With the midfield duo of  Rasquinha and Vikram Pillay making good promptings the Indian forwards always threatened the Korean goal.

Vikram had his name on the score sheet when he sounded the board in the 15th minute and three minutes from the breather Prabhjot Singh made the score 4-0, finishing off on a good move by Arjun Halappa.

Four goals up at the breather, one expected the Indians to swell the lead further. But complacency crept in their play and they conceded ascendancy. The Koreans gained territorial advantage and had it not been for goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza, India may have conceded couple of goals early in the half.

But the Indian goal did fall in the 57th minute from the Koreans' eighth penalty-corner when Hwan Seong Ji drove had and true.

A minute later, Jung Seong Kang reduced the margin further to 2-4, scoring from the team's ninth penalty-corner.

While the Koreans forced nine penalty-corners, the Indians couldn't force even one.

It looked as if India would once again concede the upper hand they had gained early on, but some stouthearted defending ten minutes from the end, when Gagan Ajit and Prabhjot frittered away gilt-edged chances, kept the Koreans at bay.

Three minutes from the hooter the issue was put beyond doubt when Adam Sinclair lunged forward to tap the ball into the Korean goal after Gagan Ajit Singh had done the spadework.

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