MUSCAT, October 24: Harmanpreet Singh scored a hat-trick of penalty corner conversions to give defending champions India a 4-1 victory over Korea on Wednesday in the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018, knocking the Koreans out of semi-final contention.
Harmanpreet opened the Indian scoring in the fifth minute with a firm drag-flick and returned to score two goals in the last quarter with rasping shots in the 47th and 59th minute to become the tournament’s third player to score a treble. India’s Gurjant Singh (10th minute) and Korean Lee Seung-Il (20th minute) were the other scorers in the match.
In an earlier game, two-time champions Pakistan banked on Mubashar Ali’s penalty corner conversion to earn a 1-1 draw with Asian Games gold medallists Japan.
Captain Kenji Kitazato put Japan in the lead in the 12th minute when he swapped passes with Hirotaka Wakuri to flick into the boards. Ali restored parity for Pakistan in the 25th minute with a low penalty corner drag-flick.
In their last encounter, Japan had scored a shock win over Pakistan in the semi-finals of the Asian Games in Jakarta and went on to defeat Malaysia in the title encounter to claim their first gold medal.
After Korea’s loss in their last preliminary league outing, they are left on three points. Korea will play Oman Saturday in the play-off to decide the fifth and sixth positions.
The four semi-finalists have been decided, but the league standings will be finalized only after Malaysia, Pakistan, and Japan play their last preliminary round matches on Thursday.
India stayed on top of the standings with 13 points from five outings, followed by Malaysia on 10 points from four matches, Pakistan on seven points from four outings and Japan on four points in four games.
Hosts Oman, who are yet to earn a point from four fixtures, still have a game against Japan remaining. Even a victory over Asian Games gold medallists Japan on Thursday, Oman cannot log more than three points.
Before Harmanpreet India’s Dilpreet Singh and Pakistan’s Aleem Bilal are the other players to have registered hat-tricks in the Hero Asian Champions Trophy Muscat 2018.
“I feel happy the way I am shooting the penalty corners. I just focused on a job and the goals came,” said Harmanpreet.
Indian coach Harendra Singh was all praise for Harmanpreet. “He is one of the best penalty flickers in the game,” the coach said.