Karnataka Len has the last laugh in the den
- Aiyappa dazzles with two PC goals as Lions stun Sher-E-Punjab 2-1
- Len Aiyappa scores a brace (6th & 58th mins)
- Harpreet Singh scores lone goal (39th min) for Shers
In the biggest upset of the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey, Karnataka Lions handed a 2-1 defeat on leaders Sher-E-Punjab here at the KSHA Stadium on Friday. The result was arguably the strongest re-affirmation of the topsy-turvy nature of this action-packed tournament. The Lions, who were struggling at the bottom for most part of the league, managed to convincingly beat an almost invincible-looking Sher-E-Punjab. Drag-flicker Len Aiyappa was the chief architect of their victory with two deadly goals from penalty-corners. In contrast, the Shers fizzled out on the PC front, convertng just one out of nine PCs in the match, with mosy of their their forwardline appearing off-colour today.
For any keen follower of the tournament, the writing was on the wall for Shers in their previous match against Mumbai Marines, which they won only by the skin of their teeth. On that occasion, Ajmer Singh had managed to keep Shers’ dangerman Deepak Thakur quiet with some dogged defending though the speedy forward managed to score a goal towards the end. Today. Aiyappa kept a tight leash on the dodgy Thakur, and as a result, the Shers were left stranded on numerous occasions despite getting the ball inside the D.
With this marvelous timely win, their fifth, Karnataka Lions climbed another two rungs in the points table, and are now conveniently placed at fourth, a reality that even their fanatic supporter would not have anticipated, for, the team had been languishing at the bottom of the table in the first two weeks of the league.
Displaying perhaps the best defence that WSH witnessed in the three weeks so far, Lions repulsed umpteen attacks of Shers to emerge successful in a thriller where tempers ran high, and Lions captain Arjun Halappa received a yellow card suspension on account of his team’s intemperate appeal against German umpire Mark Knulle.
Ravi Pal Singh sent a diagonal pass from 25-yard line which Halappa trapped in the circle on the right, even before the stands settled on their seats, and Halappa getting no angle to shoot at, cleverly placed on a defenders leg to manufacture Lions’ first penalty corner. Aiyappa executed a drag flick that hit charger Harpal Singh’s leg, leading to golden whistle holder Satinder Sharma award another penalty corner.
Aiyappa stunned goalie Sukhjeet Singh with his high flick to put Lions ahead as early as sixth minute. The veteran star again came to the team’s rescue after Harpreet Singh cancelled out his first goal, with his second stunner which ultimately turned out to be the Lions winner.
The Shers came back fuming after the early setback, matched Lions with a series of excellent counterattacks. It was the sterling show of Olympian Devesh Chauhan, the ‘Wall’, under the bar that prevented equalizer till the half time. Chauhan dived enough, jumped adequately, fell whenever and wherever needed to block umpteen shots during the Shers field attempts and short corner set pieces to deny them any room in his den.
On the other hand, the Lions, despite making some thrusts upfront, fumbled in the circle to enhance their lead. On change of sides, Mandeep Antil came close to strike, but his forehand from the top just missed the right post. The usually sharp Prabhjot Singh could not make much headway as Lions tightened their defence and would not allow solos.
Young Harpreet Singh fetched the equalizer off the fifth penalty corner. Shortly later Thakur failed to deflect the ball into the net from close quarter.
Aiyappa, after giving in to Harpal Singh’s quick charges, overcame him in his fourth and last penalty corner attempt, which proved too much for Shers to neutralize. Harpal again charged quickly, but the ball got deflected off his stick and landed on the right side netting. This was probably the Lions best moment in the tournament and undisputably the most embarassing for the Shers.
Schedule for March 24:
Bhopal Badshahs vs Chandigarh Comets at Bhopal, 7pm; Karnataka Lions vs Delhi Wizards at Bengalur; 9pm. Live on Neo Sports