New Delhi: The Indian Junior men's hockey team stormed into the final of the Men's Junior Asia Cup 2023 when they defeated Korea 9-1 in the first semifinal in Salalah, Oman on Wednesday.
For the Indian team the scorers were Sunit Lakra (13'), Araijeet Singh Hundal (19'), Boby Singh Dhami (31', 39', 55'), Angad Bir Singh (34'), Captain Uttam Singh (38'), Vishnukant Singh (51'), Sharda Nand Tiwari (57'). Meanwhile for Korea it was Keonyeol Hwang (46') who scored the only goal.
In the early exchanges, it was the Koreans who looked more dangerous; however, they came up against a well-organised Indian defensive unit, that absorbed the pressure well. Just after the half-way mark in the quarter, India started to go through the gears, pushing Korea back into their half, with a couple of attacks originating from the right. With a couple of minutes left in the first quarter, Sunit Lakra (13') smashed it into the net, giving India a 1-0 lead against Korea at the break.
Both sides began the second phase well, matching each other toe to toe in the early exchanges, before India doubled the lead. Araijeet Singh Hundal (19') found himself in space inside the area and finished masterfully from close range. From then on in, the Koreans kept looking for a way to goal, but India's defenders kept them at arm's length. Meanwhile, the Uttam Singh-led side almost added a third goal but went into the half-time break leading the semifinal 2-0.
Right after the start in the third quarter, Boby Singh Dhami's (31') high press came in handy as he recovered possession and smashed it home to make it 3-0 for the Indian team. A few minutes later, Angad Bir Singh (34') made it 4-0 as Uttam Singh and co took control of proceedings. India continued to attack and soon after added a couple of more goals in quick succession, as Captain Uttam Singh (38') and Boby Singh Dhami (39') netted to make it 6-0 in their favour. A rare Korean attack almost led to a goal, however Goalkeepr Mohith Shashikumar stood firm to see India through the 3rd quarter break with a healthy lead.
Keonyeol Hwang (46') got Korea on to the scoresheet, making it 6-1 when he converted a Penalty Corner in the first minute of the final quarter. India restored the six-goal lead shortly after, when Vishnukant Singh (51') made it 7-1 from a Penalty Corner. With five minutes left in the contest, Boby Singh Dhami (55') completed his hat-trick, as the Indian Junior Men's Hockey Team extended the lead to 8-1. A couple of minutes later, Sharda Nand Tiwari's (57') well directed shot from a Penalty Corner made it 9-1, giving the fans present a fair amount to be happy about.
The Indian Junior team, who are three-time winners of the Men's Junior Asia Cup, will be eyeing a fourth title and will play the winner of the second semifinal between Malaysia and Pakistan. The final is scheduled for June 1.—IANS