Ipoh: An indifferent Rupinder Pal Singh failed to make use of six penalty corners (PC) on Sunday that cost India a narrow 1-2 defeat against Korea at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup - their second loss in as many games after losing to Australia.
India were late to come out of their straps with a scratchy first half which saw Korea earn five PCs to India's none. The Koreans were clearly the better team in the first 35 minutes during which they opened scoring off their third PC in the 28th minute through Kang Moon Kweon, who went on to score the winner as well in the 60th minute. India's only goal was scored by Malak Singh four minutes into the second half when the equalised to make it 1-1.
The match began with the two teams trying to measure each other up until the 21st minute when Korea earned back-to-back PCs. But Indian goalkeeper PR Sreejesh, who had another terrific game, denied the Koreans with a couple of high-flying saves.
India got a chance to go ahead in the 25th minute when Mandeep Singh ran into the Korean circle from the right and played a neat cross for Nithin Thimmaiah, who failed to control his run. However, Korea's continued pressure resulted in another PC in the 28th minute. This time Korea used a set piece and passed the ball to Kweon who deflected it in neatly from the right. Korea could have doubled their lead before half-time but failed to make use of two more PCs in the 32nd and 35th minute, and it stayed 1-0 at half-time.
India began the second half on the right note, putting the Koreans under pressure in the opening minutes. It resulted in India drawing level through Malak in the 39th minute. Manpreet Singh ran into the Korean half on a break-away move and passed it to Mandeep who made a superb overlapping run from the right. He then pushed the ball for Malak in front of the goal, and the youngster made no mistake to make it 1-1.
Five minutes later India earned their first PC but Rupinder misflicked to let the opportunity go a begging. The Korean goalkeeper then came up with a reflex save in the 48th minute to deny Rupinder again on another PC.
Korea, feeling the pressure, fell back in numbers to defend Indian attacks which were increasing as the clock ticked by. In the 55th minute, India earned three consecutive PCs but were once again let down by Rupinder. But it was Korea who broke the deadlock in the 60th minute when Kang scored the winner off a timely deflection at the end of a long ball down the centre of the pitch.
India's luck continued to elude them when deflection by an Indian stick off a hard push by Rupinder struck the bar to keep Korea ahead. India's last opportunity to score an equaliser came a minute later, in the 64th, when Rupinder had another chance to undo his previous misses. But once again his push hit the bar, giving Korea a narrow win and India their second straight loss.