Badshahs sink Marines to keep hopes alives
- Bhopal Badshahs beat Mumbai Marines 2-1
- Affan Yousuf and Mudassar Ali score for the winning team
- Sandeep Michael scores the lone goal for Marines
Bhopal Badshahs beat Mumbai Marines 2-1 to keep their hopes alive for the semifinals in the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey here on Sunday. The win catapulted the Badshahs to fourth place in the leauge ahead of strong contenders Chennai Cheetahs and Pune Strykers.
The tournament is still open and only one team can feel secured about their place in the semifinals – Sher-E-Punjab. The Jalandhar-based team are comfortably perched at the top with 25 points from 12 matches, Chandigarh Comets are next after them with 19 points while Karnataka Lions have 18 points and now the Badshahs have secured 17 points. The calculators are out for virtually every match now onwards and it’s against such pressure that the Badshahs-Marines match was played.
The Badshahs took the lead through their livewire Affan Yousuf but the Marines neutralised through a fluke penalty-corner drill. Later in the match, Mudassar Ali deflected Baljinder Singh’s pass to post what turned out to be the winner.
The hosts held the upper hand in the first quarter, skipper Sameer Dad first and then Yousuff came close to scoring, but the Marines clipped the moves in the nick of time. Marines skipper-cum-goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza charged on the baseline, collided on Yousuf to deny him a shot from right while Prabodh Tirkey picked up Dad’s shot dead on the goaline. The sensational Affan came on top of Adrian five minutes later. He trapped a cross with a reverse hand in the middle of circle, dot opposite Adrian D’Souza, and stunned him with a lightening shot after a deceptive dribble as the ball crashed into the middle of the net.
Methodical in approach and clinical in their distribution, the Marines thereafter controlled the pace, resulting in a flurry of circle entries Their long crosses from both flanks and midfield landed often in the circle, catching Badshahs goalkeeper Baljit Singh on the wrong foot, but their forwards were shaky, even to the extent of being lethargic, to no avail. On top of it, the Marines fizzled with their first-two penalty corners that came in the first session. Devinder Walmiki failed to produce the spark with both power and precision.
Dahler Singh trapped a god-send hit from the top of the circle and hit it straight into the goalie, much like Gamiet Kyle in the counter-attack. Lalit Upadhyaya dispatched a perfect cross from right, despite the full cage presented before him, and Gamiet hit the ball high much to the chagrin of the Mumbai bench. In fact, Marines survived a scare shortly after half time. Devinder Walmiki, however, blocked a penalty corner shot, with a timely anticipation. The Badshahs were all over the rival territory, but Ajmer Singh and Devinder lent a helping hand to Adrian, to keep the scoreboard intact.
It was against the run of play when Marines got their third penalty corner, which fetched them their lone goal in the match. Sandeep Michael’s push was so fast that Ajmir Singh could not stop it, but Prabodh Tirkey picked up the ball quickly and effected a blind reverse shot. Pusher Sandeep put his stick out in a desperate attempt and was lucky to be able to deflect it into the other corner of the net.
The Badshahs came back strongly. Dad and their Pakistani imports, Waseem Ahmad, and Mudassar Ali created panic in the ranks of Marines with sharp run-downs and spinning immaculate moves upfield, and it appeared to be a matter of time before they struck the clincher. It came up in the next penalty corner they received. Their PC specialist, Baljinder Singh, instead of taking a direct attempt, pushed the ball diagonally for Mudassar Ali , who deflected at at once and the ball entered the goal like a guided missile. The Marines are now in a desperate situation, and they need to win their remaining three matches in order to avoid the wooden spoon.
Schedule for March 25:
Chennai Cheetahs vs Chandigarh Comets at Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium, Chennai, 7pm; Pune Strykers vs Delhi Wizards at Pune; 9pm. Live on Neo Cricket & Neo Sports.