Ipoh (Malaysia): It was a close call but defending champions South Korea reaffirmed their status as Asia’s best when they defeated India 4-3 in a nerve-wracking final of the ninth Asia Cup hockey tournament at the Azlan Shah Stadium here on Sunday.
The Koreans played one of their best games here and managed to subdue a determined Indian side hoping to seal their World Cup berth by winning the title.
The Koreans had already booked their World Cup place going into the match and it was in India’s interest to go for a win and get a direct ticket to the World Cup at the Hague, in the Netherlands.
The Indians will have to wait for the official confirmation from the International Hockey Federation (IHF) after the conclusion of the Oceania Cup in November.
If Australia or New Zealand, who have already qualified for the World Cup, fail to win the Oceania tournament -- an unlikely scenario -- that would put India`s chances of qualifying in jeopardy.
The two teams had already locked horns in the group stage with India surprising the four-time champions 2-0.
But this time in the final it was the Koreans who started off aggressively and were two goals up by half time.
Korean penalty corner specialists Jang Jong-hyun was on target in the 28th minute. The goal took his tally to eight in the top scorers list.
A minute later You Hyo-sik added that second with a goal from close range after three Indian defenders were beaten by a square pass into the D.
The Indians fought back in the second half and in the 48th minute, they made their way back into the match when Rupinderpal Singh scored from the penalty corner.
And in the 55th minute Nithin Thimmaiah added a field goal to put India level.
Nam Hyun-woo regained the lead for the Koreans in the 57th minute but only to see Mandeep Singh score from close range in the 66th minute.
As a penalty shootout loomed the Koreans earned a penalty corner in the 68th minute. Instead of taking a direct hit the Koreans played a variation and Kang Moon-kweon scored from the left side.
Moon-kweon was named man-of-the-match for his winning goal.
This meeting the two Asian giants is also their 70th. The Koreans lead with 31 wins as opposed to 27 losses and 12 draws.