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Asian Games: Akashdeep stars as India beat South Korea, enter hockey final

Incheon: Akashdeep Singh scored a brilliant field goal to help a spirited India beat hosts Korea 1-0 and enter the final of the men's hockey competition of the 17th Asian Games for the first time 12 years, here today.

After a barren opening half, it took a gem of a goal from Akashdeep to break the deadlock in the 44th minute of the match.

Akashdeep Singh, Sardar Singh
Akashdeep Singh(L) and captain Sardar Singh. Pic/ Suresh K.K.

Indian men's hockey team, which last made it to the final of the Asiad way back in 2002 Busan Games, will now face the winner of the other semifinal between arch-rivals Pakistan and Malaysia in the summit clash on Thursday.

The Indians were by far the dominant side in the entire 60 minutes and controlled the proceedings from the word go. The Koreans played catch-up hockey throughout the match but failed to break the resolute Indian defence.

There was hardly any clear scoring opportunity for the Koreans, whereas India threatened the opponent goal throughout the encounter. India had the first shave at the goal in the fifth minute of the game from a counter-attack but Dharamvir Singh missed a sitter as he overrun a pass from S V Sunil with only the Korean goalkeeper Myungho Lee to beat.

Three minutes into the second quarter, India earned two back-to-back penalty corners but Korean custodian Lee made a fantastic save to his right to deny V R Raghunath a goal. After a goalless half time, India kept up the pressure and mounted numerous raids on the Korean citadel only to be disappointed by the misfiring forwardline. Ramandeep Singh and Gurvinder Singh Chandi once again proved to be a big let down upfront.

The Indian defense, which had a habit of breaking down under pressure, had a fantastic outing today. The likes of Birendra Lakra, Raghunath, Manpreet Singh and Rupinderpal Singh stood like a rock to thwart any danger to their goal. Gurbaj Singh once again was brilliant on the right wing, so was Sunil.

India's persistent efforts finally bore fruit in the 44th minute when Akashdeep slammed home a first-hand strike from a virtually impossible angle to the relief of the Indian camp. Trailing by a goal, the Koreans mounted attacks on the Indian goal in the last quarter of the match but failed to break the stubborn Indian defense.

It was a tense last five minutes of the match for the Indians as they were forced to fall back and defend. The Indians must have had the heart in their mouth when Korea earned their only penalty corner of the match just two minutes from the final hooter but the Indian defense was upto the task to deny the equalising goal to the hosts.

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