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India skipper Ajay Thakur led from the front to thrash South Korea 36-20 while a second string Iran outplayed Pakistan 40-21 in the semi-finals of the Kabaddi Masters at the Al Wasl Sports Club here on Friday. For the first time in the tournament, India were put under pressure and it forced the coach Srinivas Reddy to come out with a different strategy. On the other hand, Iran, who came into this tournament without the services of some star players, displayed some attacking game to outplay Pakistan. Iran will now face India in the summit clash on Saturday here. In the second semi-final of the day, South Korea straightaway put pressure on the Indian defenders with some good raiding. After eight minutes, the scoreboard read 7-3 in favour of South Korea, thanks to their star raider Jang Kun Lee.
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The Indian raiders and defenders tried hard to match the pace of the Koreans but failed which forced Indian coach to make substitute in the initial minutes, bringing in raider Monu Goyat. And just when thing seemed lost in the middle for India, Thakur, after couple of empty raids, narrowed the point difference through a brilliant raid and then defender Mohit Chillar equalized with a great catch to make it 7-7 in the 11th minute. The much-awaited moment came when Goyat touched one player to hand India a crucial lead, which India did not tasted in first 15 minutes of the game followed by Thakur making an all-out to make it 13-8.
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The last five minutes of the first half game saw Goyat and Thakur taking some points to end the first half, taking seven points lead. Never looked back moment came for India in the second half when young defender Girish Maruthi single-handedly grabbed Jang Kun Lee to break the backbone of the South Korea's attack. Thakur then forced his opponents to play with two players and then defenders inflicted an all-out in 24th minute to make scoreboard read 24-11.
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After that, Korea tried to make a come back when they force India to play with only three players Chillar, Maruthi and Thakur. But Thakur's experience helped India to maintain their lead and also sent back Jang to almost seal the match.
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With less than five minutes of game remaining, India played calmly and did not allowed South Korea to take points in numbers and in the last, wrapped up the issue comfortably.