Asian Games Champions Korea survived some anxious moments before overcoming a fighting Malaysia 2-1 to move into the final of the BSNL 7th men's Asia Cup Championship in Chennai on Saturday evening.
In a thrilling semi-final match, the Asian powerhouse went into the lead through defender Oh Dae Keun, who deflected the ball in, following a free hit taken by Korean star player, Jang Jong Hyun.
Malaysia found the equaliser in the 38th minute through Azion Misran. After a tough duel with the Malaysians, the Koreans scored the winner through Yoon Sung Hoon with ten minutes left before the final whistle.
Though the Malaysians went all out to draw level and forced two penalty corners in the last five minutes, the experienced Koreans kept their cool to emerge victorious and avenged their 0-1 loss to Malaysia in the Azlan Shah Cup in May last.
The rival teams were seen probing each other in the first five minutes and the Malaysians, in particular, were not overawed as they were able to match the speed of the Koreans.
Mohd Madzli brought about a good save in clearing the rebound of a shot by Kang Moon Kweaon in the fifth minute but the Malaysians conceded a goal in the very next minute.
In fact, the Malaysians were taken aback when Oh Dae Keun came up with a neat deflection of a free hit, awarded just outside the circle.
Then on, the Malaysians indulged in one-to-one marking of the Korean front runners, who found it difficult to get past the 25-yard Malaysian line.
With Sultan Azlan Shah watching their performance, the Malaysians put up a spirited show though an equaliser continued to evade them.
Even a 19th minute penalty corner and a combined move between Tahmad Tajuddin and Chua Boonhaut in the 29th minute could not help them score.
On the other hand, the Koreans changed their game plan and indulged in short passes, especially in front of the Malaysian circle.
On many occasions they put the Malaysian Custodian Kumar Subramaniam under tremendous pressure but the latter came out with some good saves.
Tajuddin accepted a forward pass from the middle and took a few steps towards the circle to send the ball towards the goal.
With the Korean goal keeper Ko Dong Sik rooted to his left and defender Kim Chul being far away from the scene, Malaysian captain, Azlon Misron dived in front to guide Tajuddin's cross inside the goal.
However, the Asian Games champions achieved four penalty corners in the first 20 minutes of second half and on both occasions, Kumar Subremaniam came up with sterling performance and was adjudged the player of the first semi-final.
With the Malaysians seemingly looking tired, the Koreans went into the lead for the second time in the match.
Oh Dae Keun tricked past Mohd Shakri Abdul near the centre line, moved to the left and gave pass to Yoon Sung Hoon, who first dodged past Baljit Charun then drew the goalkeeper forward before shooting the ball home.
Four minutes later, the Malaysians forced a penalty corner but the Korean 'keeper palmed away Baljit Singh Sorjab's direct hit.
Earlier, Pakistan thrashed Bangladesh 10-0 and China beat Hong Kong 6-1.
In an earlier match to decide the 11th placed team, Singapore defeated Thailand 4-0 (HT:2-0).
Tomorrow, China will take on Pakistan to decide the 5th and 6th places while Bangladesh will meet Hong Kong (7th and 8th) and Singapore will clash with Sri Lanka (9-10).