Cheetahs cruise as Lions stay caged
- Cheenai Cheetahs beat Karnataka Lions 4-1
- Vikram Pillay, Imran Warsi, Adam Sinclair & Sivamani score for Cheetahs
- Vinayak Bijwad scores the lone goal for the Lions
- Syed Imran Warsi cruising with 14 goals in the tournament
There was a sense of urgency on both sides but only one team showed method in their crucial clash. Cheenai Cheetahs, showing signs that they have the goods to win the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey, beat Karnataka Lions 4-1 in the last match of the day, to leap to the second position in the league here at the KSHA Stadium. It was Cheetahs goalkeeper, junior India international Santosh Kumar, who deserved the credit most for showing his team the way forward with some brilliant saves.
The talented youngster made the difference between two equally fighting sides – defending an Arjun Halappa’s forehand from the right side of the circle and a similar stunner from the middle of the circle from Ravi Pal Singh, which could have wracked havoc. The ‘wall’ would not budge, leaving his forwards to carry out the demolition job at the other end.
The reliable Vikram Pillay (13th minute), drag-flicker Imran Warsi (33rd minute), the speedy Adam Sinclair (42nd minute) and Sivamani (67th minute) availed their chances to put the Cheetahs on the scoreboard while Vinayak Bijwad (35th minute) replied through penalty corner in the wee moments of half-time.
The deadlock was broken through a penalty-stroke, the seventh of the tournament. Joseph Reardon and Peter Kelly ran hand in hand in a counter attack, entered the D only to be stick-checked in front of open goal. The indefatigable Vikram Pillay placed the resultant stroke to the side netting on the right and then with folded hands saluted the crowd, evoking an aesthetic ambience.
Devesh Chauhan, who took the sting out of Imran Warsi in the first penalty corners, who also had a nasty collide earlier and had to take long rest in the bench, came back timely to torment the Olympian goalkeeper. Warsi’s trade mark acute drag stunned Chauhan, and the Cheetahs were up with two goals.
Jarnail Singh on the left flank got a penalty corner reward for his repeated circle entries dot on lemon time. Len Aiyappa was anything but what he promised in the beginning of the tournament, but the young and opportunistic Vinayak Bijwad trapped the rebound from the goalie and sent in, much to the relief of vocal stands, to give Lions a 1-2 halftime score.
Ravi Pal Singh and Halappa tried themselves, and also set up others for goals after resumption, but the goals were hard to come by. It instead went to their rivals.
In a scramble the athletic Sinclair intercepted a perfect pass across the width of the circle, and turned a bit before effecting whirlwind of a forehand. This 42nd minute goal from the Cheetahs spurred the Lions to exert that extra bit and came many times close to scoring.
Even as the Lions were wasting their chances, Sinclair stole the show with a forehand push that caught both the chasing Aiyappa and charging Chauhan napping for what seemed Cheetahs’ fourth goal, but it was disallowed after the referral, as Vikas Sharma’s hit that Sinclair trapped was found to be dangerous.
But the Cheetahs struck again two minutes before the hooter much to the agony of the Lions supporters. In a triangle move, Sinclair supplied a pass to Shivamani, who earlier got a green card for a wrong tackle on Ravi Pal Singh, tapped it in front of a charging Chauhan, to increase the agony for the Lions.
Schedule for March 19:
Chandigarh Comets vs Pune Strykers at Sector 42 Hockey Stadium, Chandigarh at 7pm; Delhi Wizards vs Mumbai Marines at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, Delhi, at 9pm. Live on Neo Sports and Neo Cricket.