Red-alert as Lions on the rampage
- Karnataka Lions win third match on the trot as they beat Delhi Wizards 3-1
- Ravi Pal Singh (10th min), Jarnail Singh (17th min) Len Aiyappa (65th min) score for the Lions
- Rajpal Singh reduces the margin for Wizards in the 51st min
In one of the most remarkable turnaround that the inaugural Bridegstone World Series Hockey has witnessed, Karnataka Lions appears to have woken up from their slumber late but completely. The Lions, more popularly known as the team that features the ‘face of Indian hockey’, the 41-year-old Dhanraj Pillay, notched their third consecutive win to fashion arguably the most dramatic comeback in this tournament – adding a convinicng 3-1 win over Delhi Wizards here at the KHSA Stadium on Saturday after their shocking win over leaders Sher-E-Punjab the previous day.
With three amazing back-to-back wins, Lions are now comfortably perched at third in the pool table.
Despite playing with a player less in the last 20 minutes, the cohesive and coherent Lions combined briliantly to take a 2-0 lead within the first 20 minutes and thereafter with a dogged defence kept the marauding forwards of Wizards at bay. After gifting a goal midway through, Len Aiyappa ensured safe victory passage with a late penalty corner conversion.
Despite the smooth sailing Lions lost their cool in the final phase of the match, which almost threatened them with defeat, but the reliable Aiyappa saved the day for the home team, making use of their seventh and last short corer.
The Lions were cruising towards a well-deserved victory with a 2-0 lead till the third quarter. However, their momentary lapse of concentration allowed the Wizards to come back and taunt them with a goal. The Lions indulged in needless rough tackles and reckless body play in the last phase, and had two players sent off simultaneously.
Incidentally, it was the scorers for the Lions, Jarnail Singh and Ravi Pal Singh, who paved the way for the Wizards’ long due comeback. Delhi’s chances came alive after the stern and strict Mark Knulle showed no mercy on Jarnail Singh, who received the WSH’s first red card. In the same minute, the usually composed Ravi Pal Singh needlessly shouldered Vikram Kant in the midfield, leading to a green card suspension.
The Wizards struck when the iron was hot. They lost no time in grabbing the two-men advantage. The sharp and accurate Rajpal Singh sprinted fast with a ball on one hand to the circle from the left flank, passed the ball from the right baseline, and saw to his satisfaction the ball being unwittingly deflected into the cage by Lions’ Vinayak Bijwad, a self-goal.
Zeeshan Ashraff, Aiyappa and the lion-hearted Nitin Kumar stood in tandem to ward off innumerable attacks the Wizards launched when they had superior numbers on the field. Devesh Chauhan, the ‘Wall’, was undaunted and came out with another sterling show to deny the likes of Shakeel Abassi, Upendra Pillay and Victo Singh any room for scoring.
Earlier, the usually reliable penalty corner did not work out for the Lions. However, Ravi Pal ran along the baseline to cut a rebound, and then whacked it to the other side of the net for the match’s first goal. After Arjun Antil set up, left winger Jarnail Singh deflected a close range ball to add to the woes of the Wizards. The Lions are in full flow at the moment and the tournament is likely to get even more exciting in the coming days.
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.