Pune Strykers stun leaders Sher-E-Punjab 3-2
Pune: Dragflicker Gurpreet Singh stuck twice as hosts Pune Strykers stunned table-toppers Sher-E-Punjab 3-2 in a pulsating World Series Hockey match.
Vikas Pillay (12th min) and Gurpreet Singh (29th, 31st) scored for the Strykers, while Bikramjit Singh (6th) and Gagan Ajit Singh (63rd) sounded the board for the Shers.
For a team that impressed in the first round but slipped to mediocrity, the 3-2 win against the title favourites on Tuesday will no doubt boost Strykers tremendously. It was, however, Shers` young star Bikramjit Singh who drew the first blood when he stunned the home crowd by converting the first penalty corner to post the first goal of the match.
But the Strykers came back strongly with some exhilarating display of grit and skill. Livewire Vikas Pillay, who moments before had missed a sitter set up by Argentine import Mario Almada, was accurate in his penalty stroke to get the equalizer. The stroke was awarded after PC expert Gurpreet drag flick hit Mathew Hotchkis on the right leg. The hosts could have added another before the end of the first quarter but the goal was disallowed after a video referral.
Almada had bounced on to a rebound to strike the ball into the goal but the video referral turned it down on the ground that Almada`s push had struck the foot of team-mate Roshan Minz before crossing the goal line.
But a rival`s leg came to the rescue of the Strykers shortly. Gurpreet`s next penalty coner hit Shers` Prabhdeep Singh Powar on his left leg and got deflected into the net. A couple of minutes later, Gurpreet Singh struck a gem of a PC conversion to put the Strykers ahead 3-1.
The second half witnessed a sea-change in the Shers` approach as they came all out and earned half-a-dozen penalty corners, but the Shers were stonewalled by the Strykers` goalkeeper and his band of defenders.
Gagan Ajit Singh then reduced the margin with just seven minutes left for the hooter. Gurpreet, instead of negotiating on his own which proved his team`s undoing in the second session, mispassed to Gagan on the circle line.
The opportunistic Sher stryker pounced on the chance and aimed right into the right corner of the net where it landed after hitting Vikas` stick.
The favourites had a golden chance to equalise after bagging a PC seconds before the hooter but they lacked precision, and the Strykers managed to surivive those tense moments.