Defending champions India failed to find a way through an exceptionally organised Korean defence and finished runners-up after going down 1-0 in the Women’s Asian Champions Trophy final in Donghae City on Sunday.

Lee Young-sil scored a lone goal of the match in the 24th minute with a deflection but their was no doubting the fact that the hosts were the more dominant side in the final.

India went into the summit clash with an unbeaten record in the group stage but the Sjoerd Marijne coached side would have got a glimpse of what to expect against the hosts, who had chocked the supply for the forward line during the last league encounter which ended 1-1.

The final was a replay of that group encounter as Korea adopted a player to player marking system and scuttled most of India’s moves in the midfield. The game plan clearly was to isolate Vandana Kataria, who had been the star Indian performer in the tournament, and the execution was near perfect.

India started the match with an aggressive approach with Kataria trying to find her way through to the striking circle from the right flank. However, the Koreans were quick to close her down and forced the Indians to use the long back tactics to find an opening to score.

The hosts were happy to sit back in the initial stages and used their pace to launch counter attacks from both flanks. That helped them build pressure on the Indian defence and earned three penalty corners in a span for seven minutes in the second quarter but Indian goalkeeper Savita Punia came up with timely saves to keep her team in the hunt.

But the pressure was building on the Indian goal as the Koreans hit a few shots wild but continued to pound the Indian striking circle with runs from the right flank. There persistence was finally rewarded when Young-sil finally deflected a cross from the top of the circle to break the deadlock, six minutes from the break.

Lack of penetration

Marijne, who started his second coaching stint of the women’s team with this tournament, should be worried with the inability of the midfield to make inroads in the opposition striking circle once it was clear that the Koreans were going to hold fort and not let their structure break in search of a second goal.

Instead of getting more creative, the Indian midfield kept on losing the ball rather easily and that allowed the Koreans grow in confidence. Goalkeeper Punia had to time and again leave her post to thwart the Korean counters.

She was ultimately withdrawn with four minutes left on the clock as the Indian team looked desperately for an equaliser.

However, all they could manage was a deflection from Kataria from a long ball from Sunita. The team asked for a referral as they thought the ball had hit a Korean defender and there was a case for them being granted a penalty stroke. But the video referral was turned down and the hosts did not given them any other chance to launch a meaningful attack thereafter.