Ipoh: India earned a hard fought 2-0 win over defending champions South Korea to enter the semifinals of the Asia Cup hockey tournament here on Monday.
V. Raghunath gave India the early lead through a penalty corner in the sixth minute and in-form striker Mandeep Singh struck a deciding goal in the 65th minute. The man of the match, however, was goalkeeper P.R. Sreejesh, who thwarted the efforts of Korean attack throughout the 70 minutes of play.
India are set to top their group and meet Malaysia in the semifinals. They play Bangladesh in their final league game Wednesday.
India did enough to seal the tie Monday against a team which failed to convert five of their penalty corners and other scoring opportunities.
The sub-continental team was at the receiving end after Raghunath made it 1-0 with a clean hit towards the right of opposition goalkeeper Lee Myung Ho. It was also India's sole penalty corner of the match.
The Koreans seemed desperate to equalise and penetrated into the Indian circle at will, so much so that they had 62 percent possession in the first 35 minutes. But every time they looked threatening, Sreejesh was ready at the goal post. The India defence was up to the task as well, showing that Dutch coach Roelant Oltmans has worked hard with them on an area considered the team's weak point.
The second half did not see increase in pace by either side as they kept playing to a cautious note.
Indian capain Sardar Singh, recovering from an illness, was a prominent figure in the midfield as he prodded his attackers into action. It also seemed that the Koreans were happy to sit back and take in the attacks by India.
It still remained tense for India who were trying hard to hold on to their slender lead. Mandeep Singh gave them the much needed cushion, slotting in from a diagonal pass from Dharamvir Singh with five minutes left in the game.