A last-minute super raid by Rohit Baliyan was the difference as Pro Kabaddi League heavyweights U Mumba beat Patna Pirates 34-30 in a crucial encounter in front of a jam-packed Eka Arena in Ahmedabad on Friday.
Both the former champions went into the match after a patchy run of form with more losses than wins in their previous seven matches of Season 7, but U Mumba's clever strategy finally paid dividends as they edged past a mistake-prone Pirates in a thriller.
The first half started brightly for the Pirates with Pardeep Narwal picking up a point in his very first raid and sending U Mumba's key defender Surinder Singh to the dugout.
But U Mumba weathered the early storm by the three-time champions and clawed their way back into the game. Their star defender Sandeep Narwal produced a super tackle in the fifth minute to knockout Pardeep Narwal to draw the points level.
An error in judgment by Pirates raider Jang Kun Lee, stepping out of bounds, handed another two points to U Mumba as the momentum shifted to the Mumbai side.
Sandeep Narwal's all-round effort, which also saw him reach a Pro Kabaddi milestone of 500 points, and Athul's raiding more than covered up for the absence of their raider Abhishek Singh.
In fact, it was Athul's 17th-minute raid that fetched U Mumba two crucial points and reduced Pirates to a single player on the mat, paving way for the match's first all-out. The first half ended 22-9 in favour of U Mumba.
Pirates started the second-half strongly, largely due to the introduction of Harendra Kumar who brought more defensive stability into the team. A much-improved performance from Korean raider Lee helped Pirates close the gap on Mumbai and inflict an all-out in the 11th minute of the second half.
Mohammad Esmaeil's raid with seven minutes remaining on the clock took out both Surinder Singh and Sandeep Narwal to reduce the gap to 5 points. The Iranian was in the thick of things for Pirates in the final minutes with two successful raids.
The dying moments of the match were a frenzy with Pirates sniffing another all-out but Rohit Baliyan produced a series of raids, including a super raid, in the final minute of the match to see U Mumba through.