Bhopals are the Sultans of Swing
- Bhopal Badshahs script a brilliant 4-4 draw against Chandigarh Comets
- Shailendra Singh Bundela scores two goals to fashion the miraculous fightback, also wins the man-of-the-match award; Affan Yousaf and Sameer Dad score one apiece for the Badshahs
The goals have been coming thick and fast in the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey but the real heroes of the tournament are the fighters who have come back from behind.
In an incredible fight back, probably the show-stopper match of the tournament till now, Bhopal Badshahs scripted an unbelievable draw after trailing 4-0 at halftime against Chandigarh Comets here. In fact, Pakistani star Rehan Butt, had an empty goal post in front and was about to make it 5-0 but missed. Spurred by this, Shailendra Singh Bundela led the fight back for the hosts with two goals, with the final one coming off an unexpected deflection at the last minute which took the Comets goalkeeper completely by surprise
Everything went right for the Comets in the first half. All the three penalty corners were converted before colt Amir Khan added one through a field effort. With a mountain to climb in the second session, Badshahs struck twice with a goal apiece from Affan Yousaf and Sameer Dad, before Shailendra Singh Bundela cleverly made use of two penalty corners to see his side not only escape from defeat but also salvage a point from what appeared to be a hapless situation.
Comets converted their first penalty corner, though it was difficult to aver whether it was by design or fluke. Gurjinder Singh got the pushed ball with a bad stop, could not take the shot, yet in the spur of moment, sent it gently backwards to Sukhwinder ‘Gabbar’ Singh. The Canadian star lost no time to grab the chance, and whacked a deceptive forehand into the middle of the net.
The hard working Bharat Chhikara induced the second penalty corner. Gurjinder Singh’s delayed shot first hit the charger’s stick, but on deflection menacingly veered towards the net. Goalie Baljit Singh jumped to block, yet the ball bounced off his right hand to hit the roof of the net, giving an idea of the power that Gurjinder packed in his drag flick.
The second goal spurred the Badshahs, as they created chances from the left flank and had a better share of the attacks. The goals still eluded them. First, Lalit Upadhyay’s forehand from left of the circle hit the other post, and then an alert Ajitesh Roy made a couple of goal line saves.
In the early moments of the second quarter, Sukhwinder Singh added another when a rebound landed close to his foot in the third penalty corner drill. With the goalie lying on the ground from the first save, Sukhwinder smashed his shot high into the net.
However, livewire Affan Yousaf breathed life into the Badshahs four minutes after the break. Covering his ball from defender Jiwa Mohan, Affan entered the D from the centre to hit a reverse shot into goal. A few minutes later, Waseem Ahmed sent a pass to Sameer Dad from the right flank which the captain converted from an acute angle to get the second goal. Bhopal kept pressing as Pakistan’s former captain Mudassar Ali Khan, who played his first WSH encounter today, showed his class by teaming up with the solid Waseem Ahmed to create enough chances for the Badshahs to salvage their pride.
Badshahs coach Vasudevan Baskaran deployed a new man for executing the penalty corner in the 60th minute to thunderous applause from the boisterous home crowd. Bundela played the perfect saviour role to send a grounder that brought the score to 3-4 and then posted another one six minutes before the hooter to engineer the best draw of the tournament.
Schedule for March 25:
Chennai Cheetahs vs Sher-E-Punjab at Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium, Chennai, 7pm; Bhopal Badshahs vs Mumbai Marines at Bhopal; 9pm. Live on Neo Sports and Neo Cricket.