India qualified for the Men's hockey final at the Asian Games after a 5-3 win over South Korea in the semifinal on Wednesday.
Hardik Singh opened the scoring early in a first quarter where India threw wave after wave of attack at the Koreans. That set the tone for the midfielder's performance throughout the game, where he was India's best player, with his ability to drive forward with the ball providing the team with relief in a game that saw them having to defend for considerable periods of time.
When Mandeep Singh (11th goal of the competition) and Lalit Upadhyay (his 7th) both scored with tap-ins later in the first quarter, it seemed as if Craig Fulton's side would run away with the game, but the Koreans pulled things back at the beginning of the second quarter with two quick goals, both scored by Jung Man Jae. The first one was a clever deflection off a penalty corner, and then another one off a powerful hit into the box.
India then restored their two-goal advantage through Amit Rohidas who powered a dragflick home and sent India into the half-time interval with a two-goal advantage. Rohidas's fourth goal of these Asian Games was a just reward for his performance throughout the game, as he was called on time and again to make critical interceptions in India's defensive circle.
An injury to Varun Kumar in the first half reduced India's options in defence, and those were options that they needed, as the Koreans were proving that they were no pushovers. India's tension increased when they conceded a penalty corner in the third quarter, which was again deflected in by Jung to complete his hat-trick.
After a few nervy moments in the fourth quarter, Abhishek wrapped up the win for India with a sensational goal. Mandeep began the move with a sensational piece of skill to take down an overhead ball and then ran with it, Abhishek then latched on to a 50-50 in the circle and unleashed a fierce reverse hit that left the Korean goalkeeper with no chance.
After breezing through the pool stage, this is just the test Fulton would've wanted his side to have before the final, but Varun's injury will be a cause for concern, with only two days before the big game that could confirm their place at the Paris Olympics.