Halappa inspires Lions’ impressive comeback
- Arjun Halappa leads from the front with a brace as Karnataka Lions beat Mumbai Marines 4-2
- Sher Singh and Bimal Lakra reduce the margin for Marines
It required a great effort to inspire the pre-tournament favourites who had hit a lean patch, to discover their form. Karnataka Lions finally discovered their form, and the inspiration came from none other than skipper Arjun Halappa, who struck the first two goals to virtually take the match away from Mumbai Marines.
For the record, the Lions beat Marines 4-2, but this match will be remembered for Lions’ valiant comeback in the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey, though it remains to be seen if this win will trigger a complete makeover for them.
The skilful Halappa was the man behind their resurgence against Mumbai Marines, who had shot into the lead through Joga Singh. Ironically, Joga’s goal had sealed the Lions’ fate in the first round, and on this occasion he latched on to a penalty corner rebound from goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan to bring up the first goal in the sixth minute.
However, this was the last chance for Lions to come back in the tournament and they rose brilliantly to the challenge. Halappa, usually a playmaker par excellence, assumed the role of the predator to brilliant effect. His two goals in the second quarter set the tune and tenor of the contest as the Marines succumbed to fiery attack despite the early lead. Halappa’s short sprints and guile passes were so deceptive that Marines defence was often caught in the vortex of confusion and indecision.
The Lions skipper sent a gentle scoop from the centre of circle to equalize, and then from the left side tapped in a wide ball to put the Lions ahead. Not to be satisfied, he surged from the left baseline, and when confronted with goalie, who almost narrowed his angle, he jumped over his body to pass the ball to Naveen Kumar to do the rest. This goal survived a scarce-looking referral.
Len Aiyappa then extended the lead with a deadly conversion in the 42nd minute, his flick hitting the inside netting on the right. Though, Bimal Lakra responded seven minutes before the hooter for Marines, the match had been virtually sealed by Halappa.
Schedule for March 17:
Sher-E-Punjab vs Bhopal Badshahs at Surjeet Singh Stadium, Jalandhar at 7pm; Karnataka Lions vs Chennai Cheetahs at KSHA, Bengaluru, 9pm. Live on Neo Sports and Neo Cricket.