Bangalore, Sept 30: Scoring twice in each half, defending champions Haryana defeated Manipur 4-2 to become the first team to enter the semi-finals of Hockey India’s senior men’s National hockey championship here today.
Spearheading the Haryana charge was India forward Bharat Chhikara who opened the scoring with goals in the third and sixth minutes while Mandeep Antil (43rd) and Didar Singh (44th) netted one apiece from penalty corners.
Manipur, playing in their maiden quarter-final game at this level, went down fighting with penalty corner goals by Jayantakumar Meitel (31st, 60th) keeping them in the frame, but Haryana held their ground in the last 10 minutes.
Haryana, though having more of the exchanges, did not sustain the initial intensity that had fetched them two goals by the sixth minute as they threatened to rain goals on the young Manipuri team.
Chhikara showed a great sense of opportunism to finish two good moves that underlined Haryana’s superiority that though was not as apparent on a consistent basis thereafter.
In fact, even as Haryana slackened the pace after the early lead, Manipur came back into the match and Meitel’s conversion just before the breather, kept their hopes alive.
Haryana yet again set early pace when the game re-started and penalty corner conversions by Antil and Didar gave them a healthy 4-2 advantage, but never quite looked enough as Manipur still had a lot of fight in them.
Manipur missed a couple of scoring opportunities in the last quarter before Joychandra converted a penalty corner to narrow the deficit, but the experienced Haryana held on to the two-goal lead until the final hooter.
“I am quite satisfied with our performance. It was a good exposure for the boys playing in their first quarter-final at the National level,” said 1986 World Cupper Tiken Singh, the coach of Manipur team, after the match.
“We were slow to start today, but we were in the game until Haryana scored two quick goals in the second-half. In fact, their third goal, which could have been disallowed for raised ball, was the turning point.
“We have to improve on our fitness and also understanding among the players. In fact, the full team assembled here in Bangalore just before our first match.
“Since most of our players play for different units and organizations, it is tough to get them together for a long preparatory camp, but the National championship has provided our boys good exposure and experience, and we hope to improve,” added Tiken Singh.
The result (quarter-final):
Haryana 4 (Bharat Chhikara 3rd, 6th; Mandeep Antil 43rd; Didar Singh 44th) beat Manipur 2 (Jayantakumar Meitel 31st, 60th).
Hockey India Press Release