Series of saves by skipper PR Sreejesh saved India the embarrassment
Top-ranked India were held to a 1-1 draw by the brisk-moving South Koreans in the round-robin league encounter of the fourth Asian Champions Trophy hockey, in Kuantan, Malaysia, on Saturday.
Placed five spots behind sixth-ranked India in the world rankings, the Koreans repeatedly caused ripples in the rival defence and found plenty of time and space to dribble into the scoring zone at the Kuantan Hockey Stadium.
A series of saves by skipper PR Sreejesh saved India the embarrassment after they had fallen behind in the first quarter of the game.
South Korea took the lead in the 11the minute off a flash strike by Jeong Jun-woo after a misdirected Indian pass in their own territory. India fought back to equalise in the 33rd minute through Lalit Upadhyay, who sent a firm reverse drive from the top of the circle into the boards.
Title favourites India, the highest ranked Asian team, now have four points from two games ahead of the showpiece league match against Pakistan on Sunday.
This was the first point from two games for South Korea who conceded a last-minute match-winner to Pakistan on Friday.
India first spelt danger in the third minute when Talwinder Singh got his stick to a cross from Nikkin Thimmaiah on the left, but the deflection lacked pace to trouble goalkeeper Hong Doopyo.
The Koreans almost took the lead in the eighth minute when a badly-directed square ball from defender Jasjit Singh Kular into the circle was picked by striker Seo In-woo, who was lurking around.
Seo's forward diving attempt went wide to the right with Indian custodian PR Sreejesh at his mercy.
South Korea surged ahead three minutes later when Jeong Jun-woo scored with a fine shot from the top of the circle after picking a diagonal ball from Lee Jung-jun. This time it was a pass from Indian defender Rupinder Pal Singh that was intercepted by the Koreans.
Seo In-woo could have increased South Korea's lead in the 15th minute when a brisk counter fed him a long pass deep in the Indian territory. Seo only needed to beat the goalkeeper, but he sent the shot high over the cross-bar.
India forced their first penalty corner in the 16th minute when Rupinder's rising drag-flick was palmed away by the Korean goalkeeper.
India got the equaliser three minutes into the second session when Upadhyay got possession of a deflection just inside the circle and sounded the boards by shooting past a number of players in the scoring zone, who seemed to have hampered the goalkeeper's view of the shot.
The Korean strikers gave the Indian defence a torrid time as they forced two successive penalty corners in the 35th minute. Within the next five minutes, strikers Hwang Tae-il and Kim Hyeong-jin darted into the Indian circle from the flanks and took shots at the citadel that were blocked by goalkeeper Sreejesh.
India earned their second and last penalty corner in the 45th minute, but Rupinder's rising drag-flick this time went wide to the right.
India had a good chance of going ahead in the 48th minute when Chinglensana Singh lunged forward to deflect a cross from Surender Kumar on the right flank. The ball, however, went straight into the pads of the Korean goalkeeper.
Korea went on to force two penalty corners – taking their tally to four in the game – but could not breach the Indian defence again.