- Karnataka Lions edge out Pune Strykers 3-2 in a close finish
- Nikkin Thimmaiah (16 min), Bikas Topo (29th min) score for Strykers while Ravi Pal (9th min), Len Aiyappa (12th min) and Md. Rodzhaninzam Radzi (67th min) shine for the Lions
- Stunning strike rate for Bridgestone WSH: 200th goal comes up in 40th match
- 204 goals have been scored in 40 matches till now
Almost every match in the Bridgestone WSH has been unpredictable and rocked the table hierarchies. Though, both Karnataka Lions and Pune Strykers were caught up in a must-win situation in this match to avoid holding the wooden spoon, it was the hosts who pulled up a magical performance to beat the visitors 3-2 here on Tuesday.
The win gives the Lions, who spent a major part of the tournament at the bottom, a chance to reach the last-four stages, mathematically. On the other hand, the Strykers started the tournament heading the points table, but hardly took any initiative in the second half to win the game. In the end, the team which held its nerves, prevailed in the duel. For the Lions, goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan, forward Ravi Pal and Malaysian import Md. Rodzhaninzam Radzi excelled while the legendary Dhanraj Pillay was unlucky to be struck with an injury but he continued to inspire from the bench.
Sensational striker Ravi Pal Singh yet again proved why he wears the No.10 jersey. The Sansarpur’s proud son today came out with a gem of goal, Lions’ first in this crucual match and the 200th of the tournament, amidst a maze of legs and sticks to stun the Strykers in the seventh minute. Malaysian import Md. Rodzhaninzam Radzi dived to connect a freehit from the distant midfield three minutes before the hooter, to script a dramatic finish for the Lions.
Ravi Pal Singh’s reverse hand stunner from the top of circle was matched in ferocity three minutes later by Len Aiyappa in his first penalty corner attempt. Aiyappa’s patent high-flick found the top net. With this, the Lions tails were up with two goals.
The Strykers were never a side to take reverses lightly, and launched numerous counter attacks to restore parity by half time. Tyron Perreira sent a close range parallel pass from right baseline, Devesh Chauhan came out to block but the ball trickled past him for the lean and athletic Nikhail Thimmaiah to collect and send across the goal, as there was none to cover the goalie.
However, Chauhan was alert thereafter and came out with sterling blocks and kicks to keep away the likes of Damandeep Singh, Mario Almada and Bikas Toppos, who tore the defence at will with their speed and skills. Gurpreet Singh took all the four penalty corners in that spell, the third one was really worth a goal, but he could not get past the solid Chauhan. However, even the in-form Lions goalkeeper could not prevent Bikas Toppo from striking the much-needed equalizer in the 26th minute.
Though, the Lions came out strongly in the second session. Arjun Halappa, Jarnail Singh and Ravi Pal Singh combined beautifully and forced many moves into the circle, but the others were found wanting in the finish. In fact, temper ran high in the last ten minutes. Bikas Toppo and Ravi Pal Singh almost came to blows shortly after Aiyappa missed his penalty corner shot. In the follow up of the aborted set piece drill, Ravi Pal hit the left leg of over-lapping Bikas to trigger the episode. The umpires swung into action to bring the situation under control.
However, Radzi’s athletic beauty brought the limelight back in the action as the Lions were finally able to salvage some pride. Now, they need to ensure that all the remaining four matches count. On the other hand, the Strykers and Mumbai Marines (currently lying at the bottom) must be pondering over how the situation has changed drastically for them in the span of a few days.
Goal Scorers for Karnataka Lions:
Ravipal Singh 7′(FG)
Len Aiyappa 11′ (PC)
Mohd Radzi 67′ (FG)
Goal Scorers for Pune Strykers:
Nikkin Thimmaiah 15′ (FG)
Bikash Topo 29′ (PC)
Credits: World Series Hockey