Game, set, match to Sher-E-Punjab
Hosts outplay Karnataka Lions 6-1
Playing like a champions, the home side Sher-e-Punjab overwhelmed Karnakata Lions 6-1 in the first of the three matches scheduled for the fourth day of the World Hockey Series.
Punjab utilized Karnataka’s poor finish to subdue them, and then built up sustained pressure to go up in every opportunity they created. With an array of forwards in the caliber of Mandeep Anil, Gagan Ajit Sigh, Prabodh Singh, besides penalty corner executioners in veteran Harpal Singh and Harpreet Singh, Shers scored at will and did not allow the Lions to settle.
Eventful first quarter remained goalless. Karnataka defence, despite coming under constant attack, not only withstood all of them but also launched serious counter attacks. Olympian Harpal Singh did some solid work inside the circle to frustrate the nippy Lions’ strikers, and keep the scoreboard clean.
Unlike in the first quarter, the Karnataka Lions refused to play second fiddle to Shers in the second quarter. The aggressive strategy paid dividend that broke the goal jinx as well. Young Vinayak Bijwad pounced on a second rebound to move the scoreboard (18th min, 1-0) and kick start a goal-spree that followed.
Lurking inside the circle, Deepak Thakur posed danger to the Lions all the time. Despite missing a couple of sitters in the early part of the match, the Olympian played a stellar role in steering Shers towards success.
After a barren first quarter, well known Indian tornado Gagan Ajit Singh and Deepak Thakur set the Olympian Surjit turf on fire. First Deepak Thakur’s athleticism helped Sher-e-Punjab get a penalty stroke and then Gagan reminisced his glorious past with a patented close range forehand shot.
In a fit of blood rush, otherwise calm and composed Lions’ custodian Devesh Chauhan rushed out of the cage and felled Deepak Thakur on the top of the circle. There was no doubt in the minds of the vast crowd that it’s a serious foul, and it was punished with a stroke for Shers, the first after three days of exciting World Series Hockey.
Pakistani import Tariq Aziz had no difficulty in converting the welcome stroke (2-1). He pushed the ball to the top inside net to outwit Olympian goalie Devesh Chauhan. With this 32nd minute goal, the Shers shifted gears and took the Lions defence head on.
After a couple of quick circle penetrations, stormy forward Mandeep Antil punched a parallel pass across the circle only to be intercepted by Devesh. Lurking around like a Hawk, gangling Gagan stopped the rebound with a left-hand lunge, and once that impossible-looking act is accomplished, he whacked a forehand in a fraction of second, leaving Devesh Chauhan rooted (3-1) to his ground.
With the defence of Lions in shambles, expecting a goalie to do the miracle appeared out of question. It took a long time for the Lions to pull up their socks.
Shers returned to the dressing room with a comfortable 3-1 score in their kitty.
Third quarter did not produce any sparks compared to the second, and it was due to improved defence of the Lions. Yet, the host team went up.
Harpal Singh, who stood like a Rock of Gibraltor in the defence, entered his name on the scoreboard. His hit off the fourth penalty corner brooked no answer (4-1) in the 43rd minute. This temporarily put at rest the question of the winner of this match. Later, goals from Prabhjot Singh (61st min), Harpreet Singh (61st min) were only formalities.
Its a second win for the Shers while second loss for the Lions in as many matches.