S. Thyagarajan

Korea also in summit clash thanks to its superior goal difference

Ipoh: Dhananjaya Mahadik performed a hat-trick as India cruised into the final of the Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament on Saturday.

It will be the sixth final for India in the competition. India has won the trophy four times and finished runner up to Argentina in 2008.

India takes on Korea for the cup tomorrow. Korea surged past Australia and Malaysia on a goal difference of plus nine. All the three teams have 11 points each.

Comprehensive win

On a day when tension and excitement stretched the nerves of spectators with every match set to determine the finalist, India's comprehensive 7-1 win over Egypt in the deciding match came as a breath of fresh air.

Admittedly, there was an element of strain in India's performance. The Egyptians were stolid in their work around the goal, and the custodian Mabrouk Muhammad brought off a few smart saves too.

India's penalty corners — there were six in the first half — were not well taken, until Mahadik drag flicked the sixth into the post.

Pepped up by this, the Indians gained ascendency in the second half. Mahadik pumped in two more within five minutes making many wonder why this defender was not allowed to drag flick in the earlier matches.

Riding on confidence India enlarged the margin when Rajpal Singh slammed in a pass from Chikkara followed by an immaculate penalty corner conversion by Rupinderpal Singh. This was Rupinder's first international goal.

Minutes later Tushar Khandekar scored almost putting the issue of booking a place in the final beyond doubt. In the final minute Sarwanjit Singh made his presence with a goal to complete the tally.

Stormy match

In what should go into the history of the tournament as a tempestuous match, Pakistan was handed two red cards and Korea two yellows in the last five minutes of the contest that turned out an eyesore for the player-umpire fracas.

All the drama began when the Irish umpire, Warren McCully, awarded a stroke for Korea. The Pakistanis protested and held up the match for over 15 minutes until the Tournament Director, Paul Richards, intervened to restore order.

Pakistan's captain Imran Muhammad received all the three cards at one go — green, yellow and then finally red — and minutes later when the match resumed Aamir Shahzad was shown the red.

Nam Hyun Woo converted the stroke and when a minute remained from close capitalised on the penalty corner to confirm Korea's place in the final. Korea and Australia finished with 11 points but the latter made it because of a higher goal difference of plus nine to plus eight.

Pakistan's manager blamed poor supervision for the match degenerating to a farce in the final minutes.

Australia required a 4-0 margin to go over Malaysia on goal-aggregate. It did that effectively against China. But the Koreans outwitted the Aussies by one more goal.

The results: Australia 4 (Kirean Govers 2, Christopher Cirello, Grant Schubert) bt China 0.

Korea 4 (Lee Nam Yong 2, Nam Hyun Woo 2) bt Pakistan 2 (Zubair Muhammad, Imran Muhammad).

India 7 (Dhananjaya Mahadik 3 (hat-trick), Rajpal Singh, Rupinderpal Singh, Tushar Khandekar, Sarvanjit Singh) bt Egypt 1 (Halim Ahmed).

The final points table:

India: Played 6, Won 4, Drawn 1, Lost 1, Goals for 21, Goals against 14, Points 13: Korea 6-3-2-1-20-11-11; Australia 6-3-2-1-20-12-11; Malaysia 6-3-2-1-17-9-11; Pakistan 6-2-2-24-20-8; China 6-1-1-4-12-19-4; Egypt 6-0-0-6-4-33-0.

Sunday's matches: (5-6): Pakistan vs. China (1.05 p.m. IST); (3-4): Australia vs. Malaysia (2.35 p.m.); Final: India vs. Korea: (6.05 p.m.) .

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