India and South Korea in action during the ninth place playoff match in hockey World Cup © AFP
Akashdeep Singh scored two goals as India posted a comfortable 3-0 win over Asian champions South Korea to finish a lowly ninth in the men's hockey World Cup at the Kyocera Stadium in The Hague, Netherlands.
With this win in the ninth-10th place play-off match, India had managed to avenge upon their 3-4 loss to South Korea in the final of last year's Asia Cup in Ipoh, Malaysia.
Akashdeep opened India's account in the sixth minute by tapping in a square-pass from SV Sunil and then rounded off the scoring with a reverse hit in a crowded circle in the 50th minute.
In between, Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty stroke in the 42nd minute after his penalty corner flick was stopped by a defender with body on the goal-line. India ended the World Cup one notch below their eighth-place finish at New Delhi edition in 2010.
The first raid gave India the lead in the sixth minute of play when captain Sardar Singh fed Sunil the ball on the right flank in a counter-attack starting from inside the Indian circle.
Sunil moved up, down the flank beating the only defender blocking his view of the goal and drew out the Korean goalkeeper before squaring the ball for Akashdeep to flick into an open goal.
South Korea posed a threat to India in the 10th minute when unmarked Jeon Byung-jin picked up a pass on top of the circle and had only the goalkeeper PR Sreejesh in front.
But as he took the shot after tapping the ball into the circle, Rupinder dived across to deflect the ball out. A sustained Indian pressure on the rival circle in the 20th minute saw the Koreans put up a solid defence to keep the ball out of the scoring area and curbing the space available for the Indian strikers.
Rupinder again deftly tackled Korean striker Jeon Byung-jin on top of the circle in the 27th minute. Three minutes later, India came close to scoring again when Sunil dribbled into the circle after picking up a long aerial ball on the 25-yard line.
Sunil's cross from an acute angle could not be deflected into the goal by Akashdeep and the ball rebounded off the far post.
India forced their first penalty corner in the 32nd minute when Lalit Upadhyay was stick-checked by Korean captain Lee Seun-gil in the circle, but VR Raghunath's drag-flick was palmed away by the goalkeeper.
Continuing to play a fine game, Indian defender Rupinder made a diving save with just three seconds left in the first half. The umpire blew for a penalty corner thinking the Korean striker was obstructed, but it was declared a clean tackle on video referral by India.
South Korea's goalkeeper Lee Myung-ho padded away a flick by Akashdeep off a Manpreet Singh pass four minutes into the second session before Sardar earned India their second penalty corner in the 42nd minute.
The second Indian penalty corner came after India sought a video referral that the ball had struck a Korean defender's foot inside the circle.
Rupinder's drag-flick struck Hong Eun-seong's body on the goal line and the resultant penalty stroke was converted by strapping defender. Yuvraj Walmiki had a chance to increase India's lead in the 48th minute when he received a diagonal ball from SK Uthappa on top of the circle and had only the goalkeeper to beat.
But Walmiki's reverse hit went wide. Akashdeep then sent an opportunistic reverse hit into the boards in the 50th minute after a combined move between Sunil and Dharamvir Singh rattled the Korean defence.
India played with just 10 players for 10 minutes in the last quarter when defender Gurbaz Singh was sent off with a yellow card after a deliberate obstruction to stop a Korean striker sprinting down the left flank.
Gurbaz's foul also gave South Korea their first penalty corner in the 55th minute, where Nam Hyun-woo's shot was saved by an onrushing Rupinder.
The Indian defender, however, had to leave the field with an ice pack after being struck on the right arm. The Koreans forced another penalty corner in the 60th minute, but failed to make an impact on the Indian defence.