Korea outplayed India with top-class defence that saw them hold the World No.5 to a 1-1 draw in regulation time and beat them 4-2 in a shootout to win the 28th Sultan Azlan Shah Cup 2019 here on Saturday.
Jii Woo Cheon, Lee Jungjun, Jung Manjae and Lee Namyong scored for Korea in the shootout while only Birendra Lakra and Varun Kumar managed to score for India.
A valiant performance by the young Indian unit throughout the tournament where they remained unbeaten, however fell short in the Final when they could not convert the opportunities created in the striking circle.
Breaching Korea’s razor-sharp defence meant India had to be tactically wise in their attack from the very beginning.
Though India made a couple of circle entries in quick-succession early in the game, the Korean defence was too good to crack. It took accurate, short passes and effective teamwork by forwards Mandeep Singh and Sumit Kumar (Junior) that won India a brilliant opportunity to score in the first quarter.
A quick assist by Sumit Kumar Junior to Simranjeet Singh earned India it’s first goal in the 9th minute.
Korea upped their ante as they made two good circle entries but an alert Indian defence kept them from creating potential shots on goal. With less than a minute remaining for the first hooter, Gurinder Singh earned India’s first PC but the dragflicker could not get it past the Korean defenders.
India began the second quarter well with Sumit assisting Simranjeet who took a backhand shot from top of the circle. The effort however was well-defended by the Korean goalkeeper Kim Jaehyeon.
Though India made quite a few attempts in the striking circle, there was no success to double the lead. With a little over five minutes remaining for the half-time, India earned their second PC bur Varun Kumar’s powerful flick was stopped by goalkeeper Jaehyeon.
Goals continued to elude India in the third quarter despite some excellent attempts. Meanwhile, Korea won their first PC in the 33rd minute but Jang Jonghyun’s flick went far wide from India’s post.
It didn’t help India’s cause when a good chance to double the lead to 2-0 went begging with a PC execution gone wrong seconds before the end of the third quarter.
Korea upped their attack in the final quarter desperately looking for an equaliser. India were punished when an infringement by defender Amit Rohidas on the baseline trying to tackle Korea Skipper Lee Namyong was penalized with a penalty stroke given to Korea. Jang Jonghyun, who is in good form, made no mistake in sending the ball past India goalkeeper Krishan B Pathak in the 47th minute.
With minutes racing away, India looked for an opening but the Korea defence held strong. A PC won in the 57th minute by India went amiss with Amit Rohidas’s flick cleared away by the Korean defence. With a 1-1 stalemate in regulation time, the match went into a tense shootout.