Bengal Warriors squandered a two-point first-half lead to settle for 25-25 tie against Gujarat Fortunegiants in their opening match of the Kolkata leg of the Pro Kabaddi League at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday.
Backed by a boisterous crowd support, Bengal Warriors raced to a 15-13 lead but the visitors bounced back to make it 25-23 with less than a minute to go.
But Gujarat could not kill the contest with Bengal captain Maninder Singh standing in the way with a fine raid, taking out star defenders Sunil Kumar and Parvesh Bhainswal in the dying seconds.
Maninder finished with nine raid points from 14 attempts, while Baldev Singh was Bengal Warriros’ top defender with three tackle points.
Earlier, the match had cautious start with both the teams weighing each other up in the initial minutes.
Gujarat, despite facing a formidable Bengal raiding trio of Maninder Singh, K Prapanjan and Mohammad Nabibakhsh, looked comfortable in their defence, forcing the raiders to look for bonus points instead.
Bengal Warriors went into the match as the only team with three raiders with at least 50 raid points in the on-going season in the ranks and the quality showed when Maninder started finding chinks in the Fortunegiants’ armour.
But Gujarat stayed within touching distance, thanks largely to Sonu’s all-round performance. His three-point raid with under four minutes to half time levelled the scores for Gujarat.
Gujarat started the second-half brightly and managed to open up a three-point lead over the home team in the first five minutes.
Rohit Gulia impressed going forward while Gujarat’s defensive duo of Sunil Kumar and Parvesh Bhainswal was also getting their acts together.
But Bengal’s depth in the raiding department came out in the open when second-half substitute Sukesh Hegde scored valuable raid points to keep the Warriors in the match.
The scores were tied at 20-20 at the 10 minute mark of the half and the teams continued to match each other till the dying minutes.
Maninder then produced two brilliant raids, first a quick escape of Sumit’s thigh hold and then a two-point raid to wriggle past Sunil Kumar and Parvesh Bhainswal, to level the scores.
Prashanth Rai, Vikas Kandola star for Haryana
Prashanth Kumar Rai and Vikas Kandola’s Super 10s helped Haryana Steelers thrash league toppers Dabang Delhi KC 47-25 in the second match on Saturday.
Naveen Kumar secured another Super 10 to keep his streak going (11 matches now) but Delhi lacked the sharpness on the night against a fully charged Haryana side who looked perfect in all departments under the watchful eyes of coach Rakesh Kumar.
A highly entertaining first half between two of Pro Kabaddi League’s best raiding units saw defenders struggle to get a grip of the match. The match started with the Steelers on the front foot but the momentum shifted the time Delhi managed to send Haryana’s Vikas Kandola to the bench.
The Delhi unit rushed to a six-point lead, thanks largely to Naveen Kumar, who was looking in form once again. But it was Haryana’s Naveen who made the most significant raid in the first half. With the Steelers staring at an All-Out, Naveen produced a stellar four-point Super Raid in the 12th minute to kick start a Haryana revival.
The Steelers went on to capitalise on the shift of balance with Kandola and Vinay picking up important raid points to inflict an All-Out on the Delhi unit with three minutes remaining. The half ended with the Haryana side leading Delhi 21-13.
Naveen Kumar went into the match on the back of a 10-match Super 10 run but the Haryana defence refused to give the star raider any respect as they tackled him in the early minutes of the second-half to set the tone.
Despite Chandran Ranjit reaching a personal milestone 50 touch points for the season, Delhi struggled to back Naveen Kumar’s raiding, and the match was further proof to how reliant Delhi were on their talisman raider.
On the other side, Vikas Kandola was aptly backed by Prashanth Kumar Rai as the Steelers forced another All-Out with eight minutes left in the match.
The Delhi defence capitulated once again and the Steelers clinched another All-Out with under two minutes left in the game to win the match comfortably. The Haryana’s fifth consecutive victory helped them jump to third in the points table.