Japan and South Korea stormed into the final of the 6th edition of the Hero Men’s Asian Champions Trophy 2021, shocking joint defending champions India and Pakistan in nerve shattering semifinals at the Maulana Bhashani National Stadium here on Tuesday.
South Korea will play Japan in the final on Wednesday at 6 pm while two traditional subcontinental rivals India and Pakistan will meet each other in the 3rd place deciding match earlier at 3:30 pm at the same venue.
The round robin match between the finalists had ended in an exciting 3-3 draw, while India beat Pakistan 3-1 when they met in the group phase.
In the day’s first semifinal, South Korea eliminated former World and Olympics Champions Pakistan 6-5 in an 11-goal thriller, featuring four goals by Jang Jong Hyun.
Korea and Pakistan had qualified for the semifinals in 2nd and 3rd slots respectively with only one win, against hosts Bangladesh.
In the day’s 2nd semi, India, the Olympics bronze medalists and only unbeaten team in the ongoing meet, made their exit from the prestigious Asian meet after suffering their first defeat losing to Japan 5-3 in Tuesday’s second semifinal.
With the day’s well-merited victory, Japan not only qualified for the final of the prestigious meet for the first time since 2013 with their first victory against India after suffering 17 consecutive defeats, but also took sweet revenge for a 6-0 drubbing in the league stage of this year’s meet.
In the keenly contested first semis, captain Umar Bhutta put Pakistan ahead in the very 3rd minute with a spectacular field goal (1-0) while Jang Jong Hyun leveled the margin for Korea in the 11th minute from penalty stroke (1-1)
In the following minute, Jang Jong Hyun put Korea ahead from behind scoring his 2nd goal, also from a penalty stoke to lead the first quarter (2-1) . Korea got penalty stroke when Shakil Butt of Pakistani pushed a Korean player inside the D area.
Junaid Manzoor of Pakistan neutralized the match in the 22nd minute tapping ball home (2-2).
Jang Jong Hyun of Korea completed hat-trick in the 24th minute from penalty corner (3-2).
Afroz again leveled Pakistan margin in the 29th minute by a field goal after playing discipline game (3-3) while Jihun Yang of Korea again neutralized the match from a penalty corner in the dying moment of the 2nd quarter (4-3) .
Junwoo Jeong further sounded the Korean margin in the dying moment of the 3rd quarter by a field goal utilizing a lapse of Pakistani defender Mubashar Ali (5-3).
Mubashar Ali reduced the Pakistan margin in the 47th minute by a penalty corner (5-4).
The match turned into an exciting stage when Mubashar Ali leveled the margin in the 51st minute converting another penalty corner (5-5).
But lady luck finally smiled on Korea when their hattrick maker Jang Jong Hyun hit the match-winner scoring his 4th goal in the 55th minute (6-5) to the frustration of former World and Olympics champions Pakistan.
Jang was adjudged the man of the match.
Besides, Korean goalie Jaehyeon Kim also deserved appreciation for foiling a good number of Pakistani attempts.
In the second semi, Japan took advantage of a fast start, quickly racing to a 2-0 lead in the first quarter. Although India quickly clawed a goal back in the second quarter, Japan earned a penalty just before half-time that Kirishita converted to restore the 2-goal advantage.
The third quarter proved fatal for India, as Japan again came flying out of the blocks and scored twice, through Kosei Kawabe and then Ooka.
Although the Indians tried to mount a brave comeback in the final quarter, it was never going to be enough, except for restoring some pride to the scoresheet, as the game ended 5-3 to Japan.