Harmanpreet Singh scored a hat-trick of drag flicks as India defeated South Korea in their final group stage game at the Asian Champions Trophy hockey tournament in Muscat, Oman on Wednesday.
India finished the group stages unbeaten and are all but guaranteed top spot.
After a goalless draw against Malaysia, the onus was on Indian forwards to finish the group stages on a high but it was the penalty corner specialist Harmanpreet who stepped up for Harendra Singh’s men.
India started the match well with Harmanpreet converting the first penalty corner that came his way, won after a smart video referral. Gurjant Singh then made it 2-0 for India in the 10 minute with Harmanpreet providing the assist. A lovely long ball from the defence found Gurjant unmarked in the opponent’s circle and the forward rifled home a powerful reverse hit.
Korea, however, found their way back into the game in the second quarter, with Lee Seunghill beating PR Sreejesh with a powerful hit from the right side of the box. While the goal came against the run of play, Korea started seeing more of the ball and India barely registered an attack of note in the rest of the half.
The third quarter saw a goal ruled out for Korea after a video referral with substitute goalkeeper Krishan Pathak guilty of letting the ball squirm through his legs.
It was left to Harmanpreet to restore India’s two-goal cushion with a deflected drag flick in the 47th minute. With Korea substituting their goalkeeper for the final stages, the Indian defender made the most of another PC opportunity to add gloss to the scoreline with less than two minutes left in the game.
The scoreline doesn’t suggest how threatening Korea looked in the third quarter. Harmanpreet once again impressed with his drag-flick skills. After getting off to a blazing start, India went off the boil somewhat.
India finished with four wins and a draw and with a vastly superior goal difference, should finish as table-toppers. Second placed Malaysia (on 10 points) take on Pakistan (7 points) on Friday while Japan (4 points) take on Oman.
The semifinals are scheduled for Saturday.