Shers on a rampage as Badshahs face the heat
- Sher-E-Punjab beat Bhopal Badshahs 4-3
- Inderjeet Singh, Mandeep Antil, Gagan Ajit Singh & Matthew Hotchkis score one each for the hosts
- Casey Henwood, Lalit Kumar Upadhyay, Shailendra Singh Bundela score for Badshahs
It seems nothing can stop the gigantic Sher-e-Punjab in their majestic stride in the Bridgestone World Series Hockey. Though, today against Bhopal Badshahs, an easy win could have turned sour for Sher-E-Punjab as they allowed the visitors to score two quick goals in two minutes in the dying session. In the end, the clock ticked away in favour of the host as they eventually notched their sixth win in the league with a 4-3 margin, but the air was thick with tension at the Olympian Surjeet Singh Hockey Stadium here on Saturday.
The Shers are perched at the top with 19 points from nine matches and the Badshahs are behind them with 13 points in second spot, but this tournament is still wide open for the other contenders. This was Shers’ second back-to-back win in high-scoring matches – they have struck nine goals in their previous two matches and conceded five against, but they would stay warned against complacency.
The home team comfortably led 4-1 midway through the third quarter, but had to work hard to safeguard their citadel to end the day with a narrow win. Never the ones to give up, the Badshahs stuck twice in the last two minutes, but a draw remained a distant dream for the visitors. More than the goals, margin and points, the manner in which the Shers come out in tight situations, converting half chances into full, repulsing the Badshahs relentless counters, easily makes them a team to be envied in the Bridgestone WSH.
Shers forwards came with their guns blazing in the third quarter, striking a brace of goal in as many minutes to add to the lone first half goal of Inderjeet Singh. This phase turned the tables on the visitors, who till then matched every move of the Shers and were determined to make a match of it. The Shers blitzkrieg started five minutes into the second session. Harpreet’s penalty corner shot hit the left post and spun back into play. Mandeep Antil sighted the ball early, and whacked it with a fierce forehand, the ball landed crashing on the back net. A minute later, old war horse and ‘man-of-the-match’ Gagan Ajit Singh relished a goalmouth melee to enter his name on the scoreboard in the 42nd miniute. Mathew Hotchkis jumped full length to divert a high ball for Shers’ fourth goal, their lone goal in the final quarter in the 58th minute.
Badshahs had plenty of problems in converting penalty corners and it reflected on the result. Despite wasting all but one – credit to Shailendra Bundela, who struck one minute before the hooter – the forwards were good enough to reply thrice. Lalit Upadhyay’s reverse shot that got past goalkeeper Sukhjeet Singh in the 67th minute was a delight to watch. Earlier, Badshahs’ Kiwi import, Casey Henwood struck the first goal for them in the 46h minute when the match seemed to be slipping from their hands. Overall, the Badhshah had themselves to blame for wasting numerous sitters in the first half while the Shers consolidated their kitty at regular intervals after taking the lead late in the first half.
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.