Len Aiyappa scored a heroic hat-trick to help Karnataka Lions floor the fighting Chandigarh Comets 3-2 in the exciting second match of Day 7 of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey on Tuesday.
The Lions, laid low at the bottom of the points table after six exciting days of Bridgestone World Series Hockey, thus ignited a spark which they will hope to carry further into the tournament.
Chandigarh came out strongly in the second half to narrow down the lead to 2-3, but the Lions’ defenders, Len and Zeeshan Ashraf, saw them off with girt and gumption.
World Cup player Bharat Chhikara came close to being the game changer for his team, yet his brace of goals (37, 63 mins) and the numerous assists he set up for his mates, fell short of helping the Comets secure at least a draw.
Len first sent a stunner between the goalkeeper and a defender off the first penalty corner (9 min, 1-0), and ten minutes later dispatched a high ball into the top of the roof of the net to enhance their lead. The third goal off the third penalty corner was a perfect grounder that found the net at the left end (25 min) after a deflection from the goalie.
The variation of Len was too much for the Comets to stomach. The young but erratic Comets never came out of the shock the star striker applied on them despite late surges.
Karnataka coach Jude Felix brought on Jagdeep Dayal to safeguard its cage in place of Devesh Chauhan, who played in the previous three outings. With timely rushes to the top of the circle when confronted with solo attempts, and saving a couple of lethal hits of Gabbar Singh from the goal line, Dayal saw to it that his citadel remained intact in the initial phase. The youngster thus presented the perfect setting for Len to make his own piece of history.
Ravi Pal and Dhanraj Pillay had a good outing, dictating rhythm and controlling moves which checked the Comets whenever they attempted to attack.
With a strong defence, Karnataka did not allow the usually unstoppable Rehan Butt any elbow room either.
Fearsome forward Bharat Chhikara, on the other hand, was a thorn in the flesh of the Lions. Chhikara set up many goal moves, and then struck twice, once each in third and fourth quarters to send jitters down the spine of the Lions The sides changed for lemon time, with Karnataka sitting pretty with Len’s hat trick.
Comets played their best in the third and fourth quarters. They scored a brace but could not save defeat. The Comets entered the circle more than the Lions, had better ball possession, and took more shots at goals, but were found wanting when it came to putting the ball into the net.
It was Len’s day, and the results had to go his way. Getting declared the Man of the Match was a tribute to his excellent performance.
Goal Scorers for Karnataka Lions:
Len Aiyappa 12 ‘ (PC)
Len Aiyappa 20 ‘ (PC)
Len Aiyappa 27 ‘ (PC)
Goal Scorers for Chandigarh Comets:
Ramandeep Singh 37 ‘ (FG)
Bharat Chhikara 63 ‘ (FG)
Credits: World Series Hockey