India defeat Korea to win bronze in men’s hockey
Guangzhou: The Indian men’s hockey team lifted itself from the disappointment of missing a final berth and clinched the bronze medal after defeating four-time champions South Korea in the third-place playoff at the Asian Games here today.
Having their dreams of winning the gold destroyed by the 3-4 defeat against Malaysia in the semifinals, the Rajpal Singh-led side outsmarted the fitter and faster Koreans.
By virtue of this bronze, India ended their eight year-long medal drought in the quadrennial event after having finished on the podium (silver) in the 2002 Busan Games.
India’s win also ended double defending champions South Korea’s honeymoon in Asian Games hockey. This is the first instance since the 1986 Seoul Games that they finished without a medal.
India held on to the 40th minute field goal notched by Khandekar who, left unmarked in front of the Korean goal, pushed in a long diagonal hit into the D sent in by Gurbaj Singh, for the all-important goal at the Aoti hockey field.
The Indians kept the pace down in the first half against the speedy Koreans and then upped the ante in the second half in which they got their match-winner but also muffed a couple of golden opportunities to score more.
The player of the match for India was goalkeeper Bharat Chetri who brought off fine saves in defending the penalty corners in which the Koreans are adept with variations.
Korea earned two penalty corners in the opening half and one in the second but all came to naught due to Chetri’s fine stint under the Indian bar who leaped to his right and blocked the drag-flicks from the rival players.
India were also unsuccessful with the two penalty corner efforts they got, one of which taken indirectly when Sandeep Singh relayed the ball to Dhananjay Mahadik who essayed a shot that should have gone in but for Korean defender and captain Lee Nam Yong making a goal-line save in the 24th minute.
The second half was completely dominated by the Indians who did not allow the Koreans to penetrate their D except once when the latter got a short corner award that was hotly disputed as the ball rose off the stick of Bharat Chikara, who tried to block a through pass from Kim Youngjin, and hit a Korean forward inside the penalty circle.