A match up between Petroleum Sports Promotion Board and Indian Railways is always expected to be a battle of attrition given the number of India regulars the two teams boast in their line up.
And the sizeable crowd at the Laxmibai National Institute of Physical Education in Gwalior witnessed the topsy-turvy nature on Saturday when the Railways outfit came back from a 2-0 deficit to win the senior national (Division A) hockey championship semi-final 5-4 in shootout.
In Sunday’s final, Railways will face defending champions Hockey Punjab, who defeated Punjab and Sind Bank 2-0 in the other semi-final.
No one would have anticipated such a close contest between PSPB and Railways when the former took the lead in the eighth minute and then doubled it in the 23rd.
PSPB should have taken the lead in the first minute but Harmanpreet Singh’s penalty stroke was saved. But seven minutes later, Varun Kumar converted a penalty corner to open the account.
Fifteen minutes later, Mandeep made no mistake in collecting a scoop from Sumit and slotting the ball home.
But PSPB player unexpectedly took the defensive approach in the second half and allowed Railways to pile on the pressure.
Yuvraj Walmiki made the most of it when he converted a penalty corner in the 45th minute and Dilpreet Singh then showcased his finishing skills to find the equaliser.
What followed was chaotic hockey from both sides. While PSPB made good runs in the opposition’s half, they gave up possession rather easily. But the counter-attacks by Railways were equally bad.
“We were unable to perform in the second half. The boys did not trap the ball in the opposition’s half and Railways did,” PSPB coach Devesh Chauhan said.
The shootout was more drama as it was decided only after the eighth shot when Nilakanta Sharma calmly put one past Krishan Pathak to take his team in the final.
Earlier in the day, Punjab rode on the brilliance of senior players like Manpreet Singh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Akashdeep Singh and Ramadeep Singh to win the semi-final 2-0.
Akashdeep opened the scoring with a stunning goal in the eighth minute and Dharamvir Singh doubled the lead in the 39th minute with another field goal.
With Rupinder leading the defence and Manpreet in the middle, Punjab easily kept off Punjab and Sindh Bank’s attacks. Despite several attempts, the team was unable to find the back of the net.
Defending champions Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) thrashed Odisha 8-0 to register its second consecutive win at the ninth Senior Women’s National Hockey Championship (Division A) in Hisar on Saturday.
While RSPB secured its second win in Pool A, Rajasthan registered its first win of the pool by beating Coorg 5-1.
In Pool B, Madhya Pradesh register its second consecutive win by beating Gangpur-Odisha 3-0, while Chhattisgarh eked out a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Bhopal.
In Pool D, Jharkhand mauled Tamil Nadu 7-0 to register its second win of the competition.