- Karnatake Lions thrash Bhopal Badshahs 5-2
- Arjun Halappa (26h min) Len Aiyappa (31st, 45th & 50th mins) and Naveen Kumar (65th min) pump the goals for Lions
- Waseem Ahmad (43rd min) and Karan Baskaran (46th min) reduce the margin for the Badshahs
- 250th goal of the inaugural WSH comes up in 50th match; 257 goals scored till date and still counting…
Len Aiyappa’s breathless solo act – a stunning hat-trick – took the winds out of the Badshahs’ sail in their crucial match in the Bridgestone World Series Hockey here on Tuesday. For the record, Karanataka Lions beat Bhopal Badshahs 5-2 and further cemented their place for the semifinals but their classic contest will be remembered for the exemplary performances of the three stalwarts – Arjun Halappa, Aiyappa and Badshahs’ Pakistani import, Waseem Ahmad.
Each one of them scored one or more classic textbook goals, to lift the match to a superlative level though Aiyappa’s three out of three in the penalty-corners struck a chord which will be talked about by both the cognoscenti and connoisseurs for a long time.
After Arjun Halappa posted a beauty of goal that broke the deadlock in the 26th minute, Aiyappa set the Aisbagh turf on flame in sync with his killer status. He struck each of them in style, first one on the right corner of the net, second in the middle and the third almost on the left. His third stunner, which came after the Badshahs threatened with a brace, doused whatever fire the home team had in its belly.
Veteran Waseem Ahmad and young gun Affan Yousuf combined effectively to give long spells of torrid time to Karnataka Lions in the first quarter which though remained barren despite the hosts getting numerous chances to go up, including two precious penalty-corners. With Karan Baskaran on the bench, Baljinder Singh proved woeful in both the penalty corners and his counterpart Devesh Chauhan looking in form, the Lions were quick to smell their hunt.
Halappa showed his artistic skills as he converted a goal with a high scoop over the head of custodian Balljit Singh after pouncing on a half-chance – it was a pass from the young Naveen Kumar into the circle. Then, Aiyappa took charge of the assault.
To the credit, the Badshahs tried to fight tooth and nail to retrieve the situation. Waseem Ahmad deceived the entire defence in a penalty corner drill to infuse life into the Badshahs, his long delayed scoop was almost a replay of Halappa’s feat in the first half. Karan Baskaran struck off the sixth penalty-corner, the ball smashing into the net between ’keeper Chauhan and Aiyappa on the right, but he failed thrice in the last 10 minutes that proved costly in the end.
Naveen Kumar, who had a hand in the first two goals, hit the last nail in the Badshahs’ coffin, tapping in a rebound from goalkeeper Baljit Singh. The Lions’ larger-than life fightback in the league, specially Aiyappa’s single-handed destruction of his opponents, have made them a marked team now. They will be watched carefully by all their opponents in the final leg.
Goal Scorers for Bhopal Badshahs:
Waseem Ahmad 43′ (PC)
Karan Bhaskaran 49′ (PC)
Goal Scorers for Karnataka Lions:
Arjun Halappa 26′ (FG)
Len Aiyappa 31′ (PC)
Len Aiyappa 45′ (PC)
Len Aiyappa 50′ (PC)
Naveen Kumar 66′ (FG)
Credits: World Series Hockey