London, June 14 (IANS) India edged past South Korea 2-1 in a Hockey Champions Trophy round-robin game at the Lee Valley Hockey Centre here on Tuesday to keep their chances of playing the gold medal match alive.
India wasted chances aplenty before captain S.V. Sunil broke the deadlock in the 39th minute. South Korea found their equaliser via a deflection from Kim Juhun before Nikkin Thimmaiah guided a Talwinder Singh’s cross from left at the far post that turned out to be the winner.
With this win, Roelant Oltmans’ India moved to the second spot with seven points from four matches, while South Korea remained in the fifth spot.
India tested Korean goalkeeper Hong Doopyo late in the first quarter. A brilliant run from Mandeep Singh, who stole a ball and dodged past two defenders, saw him being tackled smoothly to safety by Yang Jihun.
Then, Talwinder Singh also had his share of chance as a direct cross from Pardeep Mor was poorly cleared by Hong and the ball fell before the former. Talwinder was slow to react and Hong cleared it again.
Later, in another quick counter-attack, a pass from Chinglensana Singh on the the left was met messily by Thimmaiah, as the ball kissed his leg, with only goalkeeper Hong to beat, leading to India’s frustration.
South Korea tested Indian goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh in the 29th minute when a Kang Moonkyu’s cross from the left corner was halfheartedly dismissed by the Indian custodian. But the reaction of South Korean Kim Juhun, who was lurking in front of Sreejesh, was slow to react before V.R. Raghunath came to India’s rescue.
India got ample chances in the third quarter before Sunil broke the deadlock. Akashdeep Singh stole the ball near the half-line before he was put through by centre-half Manpreet Singh. Akashdeep moved into the circle and was forced out of position, before pushing the ball to Sunil, who rounded up and goalkeeper Hong to guide the ball to an empty net.
India got the chance to make it 2-0 few minutes before the close of the third quarter as Thimmaiah played the ball to the leg of a defender, thereby earning a penalty corner but a penalty corner variation attempt went awry.
Raghunath had his moment later to make amends but his flick was too pale and lethargic and it was cleared effortlessly.
In the counter-attack, the South Koreans looked menacing with four-time Olympian Seo Jongho’s pass to his teammate was intercepted by Surender Kumar.
The final four minutes saw plenty of drama unveiling as South Korea got their equaliser out of nowhere as a ball drilled from near the half-line was deflected home by Juhun in the 57th minute.
But India hit back in the counter-attack as a defensive error helped Talwinder moved to the by-line and set up a cross for Thimmaiah at the far post and the latter only guided the ball home to score the winner.