Cheetahs on top as Badshahs fall in 17 minutes
- Chennai Cheetahs thrash Bhopal Badshahs 4-1; in 3rd place with 16 points
- Cheetahs fire three goals in the last 17 minutes
- Drag-flicker Imran Warsi (7th min), Vikram Pillay (53th & 67th miins), Adam Sinclair (62nd min) score for Cheetahs
- Pakistani star Waseem Ahmed scores lone goal for Badhshahs (3rd min)
First impressions do not gurantee success in the inagural Bridgestone World Series Hockey. Bhopal Badshahs, looking to earn full points against Chennai Cheetahs in a crucial away match, began well with Pakistani star Waseem Ahmed providing the crucial breakthrough in the third minute itself, but lost their way completely as the match progressed. As a result, the Cheetahs trounced the Badshahs with a 4-1 win, though the victory margin could have been bigger here at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Hockey Stadium on Tuesday.
The Cheetahs are now in third position in the points table and have inched ahead of Sher-E-Punjab as the team which has scored the maximum goals in the tournament – 32 goals from 10 matches. On the other hand, the Jalandhar-based Shers have played one match less till now and scored 31 goals but are ahead of them by threw points and sitting at the top of the table.
The Badshahs defence crumbled like nine pins in the last phase of the exciting encounter, gifting away three goals in the last 17 minutes. What appeared a classic battle between world’s best penalty corner executioner Imran Warsi and an unforgiving goalkeeper Baljit Singh turned out be a nightmare for the Badshahs.
After conceding an early goal to Warsi for his 15th number in the tournament, Baljit Singh denied the Pakistan genius any more elbow room in his next nine attempts, but that was not sufficient to see his side avoid an embarassing defeat. Their porous defence leaked in the last 20 minutes of the fast-pitched encounter, and thus all the good work in the forwardline and goalkeeping went down the drain. At that time, the match was hung in suspense with the score tantalizingly at 1-1, close to the third quarter.
A snap penalty corner that came even as the third was coming to close changed the complexion of the game. It was too much for even the in-form Baljit Singh to avoid a goal at the dead end of the third quarter. The Cheetahs were awarded a penalty stroke after a referral, as a sequel to their eight penalty corner execution. Vikram Pillay placed the ball to the top left corner to post the evading goal to bring the local crowd on its feet.
It opened the floodgates in the fourth quarter. Pillay came again to his team’s rescue, trapping a rebound off the goalie to post his second and the team’s fourth goal three minutes before the hooter. In between, local hero and Olympian Adam Sinclair latched on to a penalty corner rebound going wide on the left, to enter his name in the score board.
Earlier, Badshahs did not allow the home side to settle down, with relentless attack. Captain Sameer Dad from the right flank sent a gentle parallel pass, even as goalie Jasbir Singh clung to right post to narrow down the angle. Waseem Ahmad, who moved with Dad in tandem, put the stick on the obverse side of goalie, to deflect the ball into the net.
However, instead of capitalizing the dream start the Badshahs collapsed like a pack of cards in the last quarter.
Schedule for March 21:
Sher-E-Punjab vs Mumbai Marines at Olympian Surjeet Singh Stadium, Jalandharat 7pm; Karnataka Lions vs Pune Strykers at KSHA Stadium, Bengaluru at 9pm. Live on Neo Sports.