Dhaka: Defending champions and Olympic bronze medallists India were held to a 2-2 draw by a fighting Korea in their opening match of the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT) men’s hockey tournament here Tuesday. It was India’s first tournament after the Tokyo Olympics. They started brightly and scored in the fourth minute through Lalit Upadhyay before vice-captain Harmanpreet Singh converted a penalty corner in the 18th minute to double their lead.
Trailing 0-2, Korea fought back after the change of ends and scored through Jonghyun Jang in the 41st minute and Sunghyun Kim in the 46th minute to stun the favourites and draw level.
Korea grew in confidence as the match progressed and pressed the Indian defence hard. The Manpreet Singh-led side also had numerous chances, including penalty corners, but failed to utilise the opportunities as the match ended in a stalemate.
Jaehyeon Kim in front of the Korea goal was the difference between the two sides as he produced numerous brilliant saves to help his side steal a point from the game. The last encounter between India and Korea ended in a 1-1 draw in the last edition of the tournament.
It did not take long for India to surge ahead through Lalit. He elegantly controlled the ball just outside the circle and dodged past three Korean defenders to slot it into the net past Kim.
The Indians played their natural game of attacking hockey from the onset. The Koreans however, preferred to sit back and defend deep and rely mostly on counter-attacks.
India continued their dominance in the second quarter and secured back-to-back penalty corners. While the first effort from Varun Kumar was brilliantly saved Kim, Harmanpreet beautifully converted the next attempt to double India’s lead in the 18th minute.
Down by two goals, the Koreans tried to force their way back into the game in the remaining minutes of the second quarter but India defended doggedly.
But the picture was completely different after cross-over as Korea looked more purposeful in their attacks and secured three consecutive penalty corners in the 41st minute and Jang was bang on target with the last try.
Minutes later, Gursahibjit Singh’s shot from top of the circle was wide off the target.
The Koreans continued to put pressure on the Indian defence in search of the equaliser and they succeeded in their efforts when Sunghyun Kim tapped in a drive at the near post from a drive from the left flank.
A shocked India had their chances in the form of three more penalty corners but they failed to cash in on the opportunities to split point with Korea.