Early strikes from Rupinder Pal (4th minute), Chandi (5th) and SV Sunil (7th) lay foundation for stunning 5-3 victory; Coach Nobbs attributes win to team's free flowing style of play

India's charge in the first seven minutes against South Korea proved decisive in this crucial Asian Champions Trophy encounter here yesterday. Four points in the kitty, India needed a win to be in reckoning for a place in the final.

Red hot: India's Gurwinder Chandi makes a move against South Korea
during their Asian Champions Trophy match in  Ordos, China yesterday.
Pic/ AFP

The momentum was set in the fourth minute when Rupinder Pal Singh fired in a penalty stroke to make it 1-0.

And then came one of the moves of the tournament. In the fifth minute, Gurwinder Singh Chandi received the ball just inside the Indian half on the left flank. His sudden speed caught the Korean defence napping, he sprinted past three defenders, juggling the ball past Korean sticks at will before swerving, bringing the ball to his left and letting loose a reverse hit to beat Young Moon in the Korean goal. Korea were stunned as India doubled their lead.

Two minutes later, Ignace Tirkey sent a through  pass to Chandi, who went past two defenders and gave it to SV Sunil in the striking circle. Sunil, on the move, smacked it past Moon to make it 3-0.

Korea found an opening when Lee Nam Yong deflected one in past Bharat Chetri.

Then, India got their fourth goal (24th minute) when Chandi passed to Danish Mujtaba, who sent in a high cross to skipper Rajpal Singh to knock it in like a tennis shot. Korea pulled one back when Lee Nam got his second of the match. At the break, India led 4-2. "I think the Koreans were stunned by the all out spread of the forwards," said Indian coach Michael Nobbs.

"We told the players to play free flowing hockey and they did that getting the goals while the Koreans thought of bottling the midfield."

If there was a weakness today, it was in penalty corner conversions with India failing to convert seven of them. The score line could have been embarrassing for Korea if India had converted even 50 percent of their chances. Nobbs however, was not unhappy on this count. "I am not disappointed with the penalty corners," he said. "Rupinder is just too young and he will learn with time. I am just trying to tell the boys to play the hockey they know and leave the thinking to us. We planned well today and the boys executed it perfectly."

Nobbs was pleased with Rupinder's defending. "With time, India will get a world-class defender. Once he gets international experience, Rupinder will be unstoppable," added Nobbs. 

India finally got the breakthrough for the fifth goal in the 62nd minute, and this time the move came from the right flank. Sarvanjit Singh played in tandem with Chandi and the ball was given to Yuvraj Walmiki, who made no mistake. Korea pulled one back in the 68th minute off their first penalty corner of the match.