Ipoh (Malaysia): A last minute goal by SK Uthappa secured a thrilling 2-1 victory for India over South Korea in the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament here on Friday.
The match winning goal came in the final minute of the game when Uthappa deflected the ball in Tushar Khandekar`s cross.
On a counter-attack built by goalkeeper Bharat Chetri`s save at the top of circle on the other end, India surprised the South Korean defenders with a brisk move that proved crucial after India had conceded an equaliser in the 66th minute.
Penalty corner striker Sandeep Singh sent a drag-flick into the net in the 11th minute to give India the lead that they enjoyed until Nam Hyun-Woo`s low penalty corner flick breached the Indian defence in the 66th minute.
The victory gave India their initial three points from two outings after the 1-5 loss to New Zealand, while South Korea has just one point from two outings.
India produced a much improved display after yesterday`s lacklustre show against New Zealand, managing to close the gaps in their defence.
Tight marking by both teams ensured that action was mostly confined to the midfield.
Right-half Gurbaj Singh made a return to international hockey after a long gap due to injury that kept him out of the Olympic Qualifiers and the London test event.
India broke through the man-to-man marking to earn their first penalty corner in the 11th minute, which was converted by Sandeep who placed a rising drag-flick high into the net to give India the lead.
South Korea banked on quick counter attacks, but found India defending well.
Indian striker Dharamvir Singh had a shy at the goal from the top of the circle in the 28th minute that was blocked by goalkeeper Lee Myung-Ho, who was again in action four minutes later when he had to defend a firm drive from Tushar Khandekar.
The Koreans forced their first penalty corner in the 34th minute, but Jang Jong-Hyun's shot was palmed away by goalkeeper Bharat Chetri.
The Koreans came back strongly in the second session, forcing two penalty corners in five minutes, and nearly got the equaliser in the 38th minute when a shot by Seo Jong-Ho beat the Indian defence, but rebounded into play after hitting the cross-piece.
The next penalty corner shot two minutes later was easily saved by the Indian custodian.
India again posed danger to the South Korean goal in the 47th minute on a brisk breakaway that saw Tushar Khandekar and Shivendra Singh move up in combination, but the goalkeeper charged out to deflect Khandekar's cross from going toward Shivendra Singh.
The Koreans increased the intensity of their attacks in the last 10 minute, but saw unmarked Lee Nam-Yong send an aimless shot high over the goal, but managed to draw 1-1 parity through Nam Hyun-Woo's penalty corner shot that went in off Manpreet Singh's stick.
The Koreans once again threatened to score a goal in the 69th minute when Jang Jong-Hyun was thwarted from darting into the scoring zone by Chetri, who charged out to make the save and shaped the counter-attack that produced the winning goal.
In other matches, New Zealand continued their impressive show as they coasted to a 5-2 victory over Argentina after conceding an early lead to the Pan-American champions, while hosts Malaysia rode on two goals from junior striker Faisal Saari in the last three minutes to hold Great Britain 3-3.