Strykers enter WSH final via tie-break; to play Punjab for title
Mumbai: Pune Strykers came back from the dead to edge out Chandigarh Comets 7-6 via tie-break in a rousing semi-final of the inaugural World Series Hockey here on Sunday.
Strykers made a grand rally from 1-4 to draw level in regular time, their last goal came from their eighth penalty corner scored by Simrandeep Singh, and then edged out the Comets 3-2 in the tie-break for a grand entry into Monday’s final against Sher-E-Punjab here.
The Strykers were in fact trailing 0-1 in the shoot-out too, resorted to after the teams were level at the end of 70 minutes split into four quarters, before winning the tie-break for a place in the summit contest. Sher-E-Punjab ousted Karnataka Lions 4-1 in the first semi-final held at Bangalore earlier today.
The goal-getters in regular period for the Comets were Gurjinder Singh (4th minute), Ramandeep Singh (9th), Sher Singh (40) and captain Rehan Butt (41) while Mario Almada (8th), Tyron Pereira (46), Bikash Topo (58) and Simrandeep Singh Randhawa (70th) .
The final is scheduled on Monday at 9 PM.
The match commenced at a fast pace with Strykers making inroads deep into the rival half in the first minute. Put through on the right flank, speedy and skillful Mario Almada shot on the run just wide of the right post.
The Comets took the lead after forcing their first penalty corner, Gurjunder Singh finding the roof of the net with his drag-flick, leaving Strykers custodian Gurpreet Singh Guri with no chance in stopping it.
The penalty corner specialist also joined Chennai Cheetahs` Imran Warsi as the top scorer in the tournament with that splendid effort, that fetched him his 19th strike in the event.
Almada, who impressed right through the game with his superb stick work, body feints and pace, earned Strykers their first penalty corner with a dash down the right flank and a cut into the striking circle where he was obstructed, but Simrandeep Singh Randhawa could not find the target with his drag-flick.
But the Strykers equalised soon after the miss by Randhawa, fittingly through Argentinian Almada, who was lying in wait near a crowded goalmouth to deflect home a centre from the left sent in by Roshan Minz with a reverse hit.
Minz started his move on the right side of the circle, cut into the 'D' and delivered his cross that was taken by Almada to score his sixth goal of the tournament.
However, Strykers' joy was short-lived as immediately after the re-start of play, a quick move down the left side saw Ramandeep Singh essaying an angular shot that beat Guri on his left and found the corner of the board to give Comets a 2-1 advantage, which they maintained till the end of the opening quarter.
The second half saw a barren period with neither side earning penalty corner nor scoring opportunity barring once when Almada hit wide a diagonal through from Birendra Lakra. After the change of ends at half-time, the Comets looked to have effectively shut out the Strykers from the game with a two-goal strike in as many minutes within the first six minutes of play after resumption.
The Chandigarh outfit went 3-1 in front when Sher Singh, who had an outstanding match as the attacking half, weaved his way into the striking circle and essayed a shot that hit the right upright and came back into play for Ajitesh Roy to fire the ball in.
A minute later it was another excellent centre by Sher from the right flank that earned the Comets their fourth goal as the ball rose off a defender's stick for their captain and Pakistan ace Rehan Butt to connect with a head-high shot which made a commanding 4-1 in the Chandigarh outfit's favour.
In fact, the Strykers had to thank their custodian Guri for saving a penalty corner drag-flick from the tournament's joint highest scorer Gurjinder Singh before they scored two goals in a two-minute blitz.
The Strykers fought back and earned two short corners and from the second, their third in the game, Tyron Pereira found the mark in the 46th minute. Strykers forced another short corner in the third quarter, but Gurpreet failed to beat rival custodian Harjot Singh, who had a good game, and the period ended with the Comets up 4-2.
The Strykers came out with renewed vigour after the short break into the fourth quarter against a side that looked a bit tired.
They immediately started dominating the proceedings by earning a fifth penalty corner through the combined effort of Roshan Minz and Almada. But Simrandeep again could not beat Harjot under the rival bar.
Pune could not be denied a goal and it was a superb effort, a reverse-hit from the top of the 'D' by Bikash Topo that completely beat Harjot.
Strykers, who had come back from 3-5 down to outsmart Mumbai Marines 7-5 in their campaign opener exactly a month ago, started chasing the equaliser with right earnest.
Pune forced three short corners in succession in the last three minutes and off the last, their eighth overall, effectively their last chance as the final hooter had sounded and only the penalty corner award remained to be taken -
Simrandeep sounded the board to bring them on level terms 4-4 and force the penalty shoot-out.
In the shoot-out, in which each player tried to dribble his way past the rival goalkeeper and score as per the new rules of hockey, Almada, Topo and Nikken Thimmiah scored for the winners while Gurjinder Singh and Bharat Chikara were able to beat the rival custodian and score for the Comets.
Ramandeep Singh, Sukhwinder Singh and Butt missed for the losers while for the Strykers, Roshan Minz failed.