PHL 2007 HIGHLIGHTS

Steelers Clinch PHL

05/03/2007
Chandigarh
March 5, 2007

Orissa Steelers won the Premier Hockey League title here on Monday defeating Sher-e-Jalandhar 4-3 in the deciding final which was marred by unsavoury incidents mainly involving the losing side.

After being tied at 3-3 till the end of three quarters, skipper Dilip Tirkey gave Steelers the winning goal in the 56th minute through a penalty corner.

The victory meant Steelers won the best of three finals 2-1, the Shers having won the first match, and pocketed the winners’ cheque of Rs 40 lakh.

But the losers were not gracious in defeat as they created a ruckus over Tirkey’s winner.

The Shers, including skipper Kanwalpreet Singh, Harpal Singh, Baljit Dhillon and others, rushed towards international umpire Satender Sharma, whom they manhandled and pushed around after he allowed the goal by Tirkey.

They argued that the ball was pushed by the Steelers before they were ready to take it. Harpal immediately dropped his stick and rushed towards the umpire and was joined by others.

Reserve umpire Suresh Kumar, who had in the meantime replaced Sharma, took the help of the video replays and awarded the goal in favour of the Steelers.

The Shers, who stayed away from the field for a while in protest, returned to play the match. Earlier, the Steelers skipper Dilip Tirkey gave them early lead scoring in the 4th minute of the first quarter from a second back-to-back penalty corner which his team earned.

However, the Shers were quick to equalise in the 16th minute when Gagan Ajit Singh scored off the rebound from the goalkeeper in the first penalty corner which his team got.

Baljit Singh Dhillon led an attack from the right flank and Gagan finished off a well-executed attack to take his team 2-1 up in the 26th minute.

The Steelers bounced back through Damandeep Singh.

The Shers also converted their second penalty corner in the 42nd minute when Tejbir Singh found the right spot to push the ball in after a slight mess-up.

Their lead, however, proved to be short-lived as Bimal Lakra scored Steelers’ third goal from a penalty stroke.

(Courtesy, Press Trust of India)

 



Minz ensures Steelers enter decider

04/03/07
Chandigarh
March 4, 2007

Roshan Minz hit a brace to help Orissa Steelers defeat Sher-e-Jalandhar 2-1 in the second of best-of-three finals and push the Premier Hockey League into the decider on Sunday.

Minz, who was declared Lion of the day, hit a powerful shot to finish off a well-executed attack in the 38th minute and then put the result beyond doubt with another goal in the dying minutes.

Under pressure after having lost the first final, Steelers attacked from the outset with several raids into the rival camp.

However, it were the Shers who got early lead in the 22nd minute of the match through the second penalty corner.

Tejbir Singh deflected the ball into the post after a nice pass from Baljit Singh Dhillon.

Minz deflected the ball into the net in the 38th minute, from fifth penalty corner to level the scores.

The match was witnessed by Indian cricket stars like VVS Laxman and Debasish Mohanty besides former badminton player Prakash Padukone had dropped in today to witness the match.

(Courtesy, The Times of India)



Shers pip Steelers 1-0
02/03/2007
Chandigarh
March 2, 2007

It can’t get any closer than this. The first final of the Premier Hockey League III ended in a marathon shootout that saw Sher-e-Jalandhar edge out Orissa Steelers 6-5 (7-6 overall) at the Sector 42 Hockey Stadium here tonight. Both teams took as many as 15 penalty tries each, but most of the players made a hash of their attempts.

Shers’ goalkeeper Kamaldeep Singh, who was adjudged the Lion of the Day, thwarted Birender Lakra’s feeble try to seal the victory and put his team 1-0 up in the best-of-three finals. The second final will be played on Sunday.

With this win, the Shers avenged the penalty-shootout defeat in the round-robin match last week. The Steelers’ Pakistani goalie Salman Akbar, who was the star of that match, was not able to do an encore this time.

For the Shers, Tejbir Singh converted two penalties, while Gagan Ajit Singh, Yudhvir Singh, Guruvinder Singh and Prabhdeep Singh beat the goalie once each. Gagan, Yudhvir, Guruvinder and Prabhdeep missed twice, while Tejbir was unsuccessful once.

The biggest culprits for the Steelers were Birender Lakra and Munaf Patel lookalike Damandeep Singh, who both failed to convert any of their three tries each. Captain Dilip Tirkey and William Xalco scored two times each, while Prabodh Tirkey did it once.

In all, of the 30 tries, only 11 were converted. Most of the failures were due to the players’ own ineptness rather than any brilliance on the part of the goalies.

The two teams remained locked 1-1 at the end of regulation time as well as extra time. Gagan Ajit had put the Shers ahead in the 37th minute with an opportunistic goal. A long and fierce hit by captain Kanwalpreet Singh from the half-line was blocked by Salman, but Gagan latched on to the rebound to score his 13th goal of the tournament (he is the top scorer of PHL III so far, four ahead of Dilip Tirkey).

Against the run of play, the Steelers equalised through an indirect penalty-corner conversion by Sunil Ekka in the 63rd minute.

The match never rose to great heights, and it occasionally saw some rough play. Despite the presence of dynamic forwards Tejbir and Gagan Ajit, the Shers failed to earn any penalty corner during the entire match. The Steelers fared only marginally better, earning one and managing to convert it. Both teams missed their overseas imports — Spain’s Santi Freixa (Shers) and Argentina’s Mario Almada (Steelers).

The Steelers, who have been the best among the seven teams in the two-month-long league, did not put up an inspiring show today. Their forwards Sunil Ekka, Roshan Minz and Damandeep Singh failed to capitalise on a number of chances. However, Dilip Tirkey was, as always, rock solid in the defence, and Salman Akbar guarded the citadel well against repeated attacks.

Lack of coordination between Tejbir and the other forwards prevented the Shers from wresting the initiative. Tejbir’s fast moves down the left flank were not complemented by timely interceptions by his team-mates.

On the whole, the Shers, egged on by the crowd, played marginally better hockey. They deserved to win, no matter if the margin was just wafer thin.

(Courtesy, The Tribune)



Lions finish 3rd
28/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 28

Riding on Sandeep Michael's brace, defending champions Bangalore Lions beat Hyderabad Sultans 4-2 in their last league match to finish third in the Premier Hockey League in Chandigarh on Wednesday night.

The Lions may have failed to reach the final this time, but they finished with a tally of 20 points while the Sultans suffered their sixth straight defeat in the tournament and have just six points at the bottom of the table.

Playing under flood lights in cold conditions, both teams played an attacking game early on and Sandeep Michael gave Lions the lead in the fifth minute, scoring from a penalty-corner.

However, the Sultans were quick to respond, with Sharanjeet Singh restoring parity from a penalty-corner in the 13th minute of the first quarter and Pakistani import Tariq Aziz scoring a field goal in the 15th minute to put his team 2-1 up.

But the Lions fought their way back, scoring in the 26th minute, in the second quarter, when Hari Prasad scored a field goal.

Locked at 2-2 at half time, the Lions launched some attacks on the opposition and were awarded a penalty-stroke at the end of the third quarter.

Aiyappa found the post easily and gave his team a 3-2 lead in the 53rd minute.

With just fourth and last quarter remaining in the match, the Sultans tried to fight a losing battle. Sandeep Michael scored his second goal from the fifth penalty-corner in the 63rd minute, scoring off a rebound from the goalkeeper.

The crowds were missing in today's match, mainly due to the rainy weather, which forced the mercury to fall sharply.



Dynamos beat Shers

27/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 27, 2007

With a hard-fought 3-2 win over title favourites Sher-e-Jalandhar, Chandigarh Dynamos kept themselves in the race for the bronze medal in the Premier Hockey League here on Tuesday.

In cold and windy conditions last night, both teams played at a slow pace and took time to settle down but the hockey dished out was dull and dreary. Shers, who have already qualified for the best-of-three finals, rested their star players Baljit Dhillon and Baljit Singh Saini. Olympian Gagan Ajit Singh came in only towards the end of the first quarter.

Dynamos drew first blood in the 17th minute following a long corner. Skipper Rajpal Singh got the ball after a goal-mouth melee and gave a pass to Ravipal Singh near the top of the circle. Despite two defenders all over him, Ravipal managed to find space and scooped into the net past rival custodian Kamaldeep Singh (1-0).

The second quarter was completely bereft of any innovative moves and the huge crowd witnessed mediocre midfield play. However, both the teams picked up speed and started playing attacking and open game in the second half with all the stars in the Shers' team taking the field.

Shers got the equaliser through their third penalty corner in the 40th minute when their Spanish import Santi Freixa did a jig to confuse the defenders with a 360 degree turn, with the ball sticking closely to the stick, and put Gagan in possession. Gagan slammed into the boards to make it 1-1.

However, Dynamos took the lead once again with some pleasing moves upfront where skipper Rajpal Singh and Prabjot Singh combined well. Inderjit Chadha played a crucial role in distributing the passes as playmaker in the attack feeding dangerous ball to his strikers. They earned the fifth of their seven short corners today and Jugraj Singh found the net after Chadha and Irshad Ali did the spade work in the 52 nd minute (2-1).

But the lead was short-lived as Shers struck the equaliser within two minutes when Freixa proved equally good with his drag-flick from Shers' fourth set-piece drill (2-2).

Undaunted by the reverse, Dynamos continued to attack relentlessly and forced two more penalty corners before posting the match winner in the 61st minute. Jaswinder Singh began a move from the middle and put Chadha in possession. Chadha sent a short pass after entering the circle to Mandeep Singh on the left. With rival custodian Kamaldeep advancing, Mandeep used the back pass to find Prabjot unmarked near the far post. The Dynamos' star just nudged the ball in with an open goal staring at him. Inderjit Singh Chadha was declared Lion of the Day.

(Courtesy, UNI)



Steelers continue domination
26/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 26, 2007

Orissa Steelers proved their dominance by outplaying Chennai Veerans 5-1 in the Premier Hockey League match played on Monday.

The Steelers' launched the attack from the start of the match played under the flood lights and never gave any chance to the lethargic-looking Veerans who were slow in their movement on the field.

Shortly after the Veerans earned their first penalty corner of the match in the 8th minute, the Steelers' led the counter attack, with Roshan Minz giving them their first goal when he finished a long pass with his reverse flick.

Sameer Dad then pumped in the second goal for the Steelers in the 14th minute deflecting a nice cross from Bimal Lakra taking full advantage of the yawning gaps in the opposition defence, for whom the match looked more of an academic interest.

The Steelers skipper and leading goal scorer of the tournament, Dilip Tirkey gave his team yet another goal, which came from their only penalty corner, in the 9th minute of the second quarter of the match.

In the 12th minute of this quarter, Sameer Dad had only to tap the ball inside with a gentle push as much of the spadework for him was done by the team's Pakistani import Adnan Zakir.

The Veerans were completely on backfoot though they tried to build some attacks. Vikram Kanth finally managed to score one when he converted a penalty corner after they earned three back-to-back and five in all.

Bruno Lugun scored the fifth one for Steelers that came between the legs of the goalkeeper in the fourth and final quarter.

(Courtesy, The Times of India)



Dilip strikes thrice for Steelers
23/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 23, 2007

Three-time Olympian and skipper Dilip Tirkey struck three fabulous penalty-corner goals to fashion Orissa Steelers' comprehensive 4-1 victory over Maratha Warriors and make sure of a berth in the three-match final of the Premier Hockey League in Chandigarh on Friday night.

Orissa, who began on a cautious note, played a subdued game in the first quarter. But they took control of the midfield and stepped up gears in the second and virtually sealed the fate of the match with three goals in the space of nine minutes.

The first goal came in the 19th minute from Orissa's first penalty-corner and Tirkey's power-packed undercut beat the goalkeeper.

The was in the 27th minute from the second short corner. This time too Tirkey beat goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza and the ball rose off Viren Rasquinha's stick on the goalline to settle in the net.

Tirkey scored again from the third of their six penalty-corners in the 38th minute in similar fashion, the ball deflecting into the net.

In-between, Orissa's Argentine player Mario Alamada struck a field goal in the 25th minute.

Warriors reduced the margin with three minutes to go for the hooter from their last short corner when Kuldeep's direct hit rose off rival goalie Salman Akbar's pads and settled in the net.

(Courtesy, PTI)



Shers enter PHL final
25/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 25, 2007

Gagan Ajit Singh sparkled with a brace as Sher-e-Jalandhar stormed into the final of the Premier Hockey League after a convincing 3-1 win over former champions Hyderabad Sultans in Chandigarh on Sunday.

For title contenders Sher-e-Jalandhar, Gagan scored twice (47th minute, 66) after Spaniard Santi Freixa gave them the lead in the 19th minute.

Hyderabad had more ball possession in the first quarter but it was Shers' who attacked more waiting patiently for the counters.

Freixa put Shers ahead with a powerful backhander after Baljit Dhillon and Tejbir did the initial spadework.

Despite dominating with more exchanges and with their forwards, Gagan Ajit Singh, Tejbir and Santi Freixa weaving patterns upfront, Shers failed to increase the lead in the second quarter and conceded the equaliser in the third.

Hyderabad Sultans' Pakistani star Tariq Aziz intercepted Harpal's pass and put Rajwinder in possession from the middle and the latter found the net without any fuss.

However, Hyderabad conceded the lead in the very next minute.

After he was fed by Baljit Dhillon, Gagan caught Hyderabad goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan on the wrong foot with a weak reverse-stick shot in the 47th minute.

Gagan scored another in the 66th minute when he deflected a fierce backhander from Tejbir.

Triple Olympian Baljit, who did a commendable job in the attack, was adjudged Lion of the Day.

(Courtesy, PTI)



Comfortable win for Dynamos
22/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 22, 2007

Chandigarh Dynamos chalked out a comfortable 2-0 victory over bottom-placed Hyderabad Sultans in the Premier Hockey League here on Thursday night.

With the teams failing to show any competitive zeal, the match became a dull and drab affair. Hyderabad Sultans, currently last on the table with six points, has two more matches while Chandigarh Dynamos, after 10 matches, has 13. Both the teams are virtually out of contention for a place in the best-of-the-three final.

Dynamos hoisted the lead in the 17th minute following an extended penalty corner at the end of the first quarter. Skipper Rajpal Singh injected the ball with accuracy and Irshad Ali set it up perfectly for drag-flick specialist Jugraj Singh who sent a powerful flick to the right corner of the goal.

Indian star Prabjot Singh found his wonted form and made many dangerous moves. In the 35th minute, Dynamos made it 2-0 through a field goal.

With Sultans playing a subdued game, Dynamos forwards Ravipal Singh and Rajpal Singh combined well and weaved patterns upfront but failed to provide finishing touches to many a move.

(Courtesy, PTI)



Steelers, a step away from final
21/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 21, 2007

Pakistani goalkeeper Salman Akbar's brilliant effort helped Orissa Steelers beat Sher-e-Jalandhar 3-1 in the shoot-out in a Premier Hockey League match here on Wednesday night.

Akbar saved three goals in the shoot-out as Steelers salvaged two points and maintained its lead in the PHL. The teams were locked 1-1 after the regulation time and 15-minute extra-time.

Argentine star Mario Alamada put the Orissa team ahead in the 6th minute. Shers struck the equaliser in the 51st, with a surprise switch over of the ball from the right to the left flank.

Jarnail Singh got a cross from the right, moved into the circle and from a narrow angle affected a powerful reverse flick into the goalmouth.

Shers had a golden chance of bagging all the three points at the fag end but Tejbir Singh shot wide.

In the shoot-out, Steelers scored thrice while Shers managed only one. Dilip Tirkey, Birendra Lakra and Damandeep Singh scored for Steelers while Prabodh Tirkey missed.

For Shers, only Santi Freixa scored. Baljit Dhillon, Tejbir Singh and Gurvinder Singh's attempts were brilliantly saved by Akbar.

(Courtesy, PTI)



Veerans tame Lions
21/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 21, 2007

Services striker Suresh Kumar dished out scintillating performance and found an able ally in skipper Adam Sinclair and Spanish import Albert Casas, as Chennai Veerans upset Bangalore Lions with a comprehensive 3-0 victory in the Premier Hockey League at the Sector 42 Hockey Stadium in Chandigarh on Tuesday.

Chennai took control of the game in the first quarter with two goals in the space of two minutes. They took the lead in the 14th minute, when Suresh received a ball at the top of the circle and darted to his left and sent a stinging hit towards the right post and Adam deflected from close range.

Two minutes later, Adam was in the thick of action once again but it was Suresh who did the spade work on the right flank before putting the skipper in possession.

Suresh sent a quick and accurate pass to Adam who in turn relayed it to an unmarked Albert Casas. The Spanish star pulled the ball back to sidestep Bangalore custodian Bharat Chetri and scooped into the net.

Chennai rounded off the tally in the last minute of the third quarter with Suresh himself finding the target. This time it was Adam who tapped the ball to Suresh to avoid a charging goalie and Suresh, with an open goal staring at him, just pushed the ball home.

Bangalore made some incisive moves in the last quarter but it was too late.

Suresh was adjudged Lion of the match.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Warriors pip Sultans
20/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 20, 2007

A brilliant performance under the bar by Devesh Chauhan and an inspired show by Hyderabad Sultans went in vain as Maratha Warriors, which was held 2-2 even after the 15-minute extra-time, won 5-3 in the tiebreaker in their Premier Hockey League encounter here on Monday night.

First Shivender (28th minute) and then Hardeep (46th) put the Warriors ahead. But on both occasions the Sultans scored the equalisers. The first one was scored by Didar Singh off a short corner, while Shakeel Abassi scored the second.

In the tiebreaker, Shivender Singh, Jamie Dwyer and Gaurav Tokhi scored for Maratha Warriors, while Sandeep Antil fumbled. For Hyderabad Sultans Sardara Singh shot over the bar, Rajwinder Singh sent it wide and Lazarus Barla's ball went out of play. Only Tariq Aziz scored.

Warriors's fifth player, Gaurav Tokhi managed to beat Chauhan and gained victory for his team.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Steelers brush aside Dynamos
19/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 19, 2007

Orissa Steelers consolidated its position at the top of the Premier Hockey League standings with a convincing 4-2 win over Chandigarh Dynamos here on Sunday.

Dynamos opened the account in the sixth minute. Rajpal Singh deflected one from close past Orissa custodian Salman Akbar.

In the 12th minute, Steelers struck the equaliser from its first penalty corner when a dipping Dilip Tirkey direct hit beat a prostrate Dynamos custodian Baljit Singh.

Orissa Steelers then took the lead in the 25th with another penalty corner conversion. In an indirect variation, Tirkey sent a measured ball to the left of the goalkeeper and its Argentine import Mario Alamada deflected it in.

Mario Alamada, the livewire of Steelers's attack on the day, scored again in the 34th minute to increase the lead.

Thereafter, Dynamos, which failed to control the fast breaks of Steelers, pulled one back with a surprise counter attack in the 40th minute. Mandeep Singh made the best use of a long ball into the circle by Haravinder Singh to make it 3-2.

However, Steelers made it 4-2 within six minutes with a brilliant field goal by Prem Kumar in the 46th minute and held on to the lead till the end.

Earlier, Bangalore Lions chalked out a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sher-e-Jalandhar.

The Lions conceded the first goal in the 15th minute after a defensive lapse inside the 25-yard line saw Sher-e-Jalandhar star Gagan Ajit Singh steal the ball on the right flank.

He darted into the circle and shot home from a narrow angle. The Lions then took control of the midfield with a four-man brigade and stopped the dangerous rival raids from the right by marking Baljit Singh Saini and Baljit Singh Dhillon.

The Lions struck the equaliser in the 19th minute when speedy striker Hari Prasad put Sandeep Michael in possession with a short pass. Sandeep smashed the ball home. Two minutes from half-time, Lions's second penalty corner saw Len Aiyappa scoring what turned out to be the match-winner.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Lions overcome Shers
19/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 19, 2007


Bangalore Lions chalked out a hard-fought 2-1 win over Sher-e-Jalandhar in the Premier Hockey League here on Sunday.

The Lions conceded the first goal in the 15th minute after a defensive lapse inside the 25-yard line saw Sher-e-Jalandhar star Gagan Ajit Singh steal the ball on the right flank.

He darted into the circle dodging past a couple of defenders and shot home from a narrow angle.

The Lions then took control of the midfield with a four-man brigade and stopped the dangerous rival raids from the right by marking Baljit Singh Saini and Baljit Singh Dhillon.

The Lions struck the equaliser in the 19th minute when speedy striker Hari Prasad put Sandeep Michael in possession with a short pass. Sandeep smashed the ball home.

Two minutes before half-time, Lions' second penalty corner saw Len Aiyappa scoring what turned out to be the match-winner.

On Saturday, Maratha Warriors beat Chandigarh Dynamos 2-0. The first goal came in the fourth minute of the second half (third quarter) when a sliding Shivender Singh deflected a pass from teammate Ajmer Singh.

Two minutes later, Hardeep Singh sounded the boards after a good move by Warriors' Australian import Jamie Dwyer.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Lions roar past Steelers
16/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 16, 2007


Riding on the back of two opportunistic goals by Sandeep Michael, Bangalore Lions came from behind to stun tournament leaders Orissa Steelers 4-3 in the 27th match of the Premier Hockey League. Lions now have 12 points and a defeat would have pushed them to the bottom of the table.

The interesting bit about their win was a high 75 percent penalty corner conversion rate. Lions scored three goals from the four penalty corners that they managed to eke out in this game.

The game began on the right note for the Steelers when skipper Dilip Tirkey’s goal bound hit from the first penalty corner in the 10th minute found Ignace Tirkey’s stick and crashed into the net. Lions levelled the score through Michael in the 30th minute.

Three minutes later Steelers once again went in the lead, Tirkey converting a penalty corner but Lions once again equalised. After the halftime break, Lions managed to break the solid Steelers defence to surge ahead 4-3.

(Courtesy, The Times of India)



Frexia helps Shers win
15/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 15, 2007

Spanish import Santi Frexia's `silver goal' helped Sher-E-Jalandhar beat Maratha Warriors 3-2 in a nail-biting match of the Premier Hockey League here on Thursday.

With the teams locked 2-2 end the end of regulation time, Frexia made no mistake firing past goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza with his drag-flick.

The win gave Jalandhar two points and put it in second behind Orissa Steelers.

Earlier, Frexia, with his first goal of the tournament, had given his team a 2-0 lead at half-time. Jalandhar had gone ahead through Gagan Ajit Singh's strike, in the 16th minute, off a Tejbir pass.

Warriors turned the tables on Jalandhar in the fourth and last quarter when Pakistani import Imran Warsi scored off a penalty corner and Australian striker Jamie Dwyer, who had been heavily marked, finished off a well-executed attack.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Dynamos demolish Veerans

14/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 14, 2007

Local favourites Chandigarh Dynamos demolished Chennai Veerans 5-2 in a Premier Hockey League match at Sector 42 Hockey stadium in Chandigarh on Wednesday.

Responding to the crowd, Dynamos played entertaining hockey and attacked right from the word 'go' forcing two penalty-corners in the first three minutes.

Olympian Deepak Thakur hoisted the lead in the fifth minute after being put in possession by Prabjot Singh.

The opportunistic goal set the tone for the match and Dynamos continued to call the shots and were ahead throughout.

Dynamos should have gone ahead 2-0 in the ninth minute, but a Deepak Thakur slap shot from an indirect penalty-corner was disallowed as it failed to hit the boards.

Chennai, too, responded well thereafter, and kept themselves in the match with a brave fight but were done in by two soft goals due to their own lapses in the midfield and defence.

Chandigarh Dynamos increased the lead in the 14th minute through a freak goal. Ravipal went on a solo on the left flank looking for teammates, but with no one in sight, he cut into the circle and ran down the goal line on the left and took a reluctant shot.

However, the ball rose off defender Raghunath's stick and found the net, with stunned Chennai custodian Sreejesh left in a helpless situation.

Chennai pulled one back within six minutes, earning their first short corner in the 20th minute. Somanna injected a fast and accurate ball and Albert Casas set it up perfectly for Raghunath, whose flick went in like a bullet.

But their joy was short-lived as Dynamos struck again, after four minutes, from their fourth penalty-corner. Jugraj Singh's beat the goalkeeper with a powerful drag flick to make it 3-1 in the 24th minute.

Later, Chennai forced two more short corners before half-time, but Jugraj was instrumental in making a superb goal line save off a Raghunath grounder.

But Chennai came back with another goal and kept themselves at a striking distance in the 46th minute from their 5th and last penalty-corner when their Malaysian import Kuhan Shanmuganathan found the target with a low flick.

Later, Chandigarh struck two more goals to take the match away from Chennai.

In the 56th minute, Inderjit Chadha intercepted a long ball from Kuhan Shanmuganathan and put Rajpal Singh in possession.

Rajpal relayed it into the circle and Ravipal rushed in and undercut the ball from the top of the `D' and it zoomed into the net.

Prabjot Singh rounded off the tally in the 56th minute. Mandeep tapped in a defence-splitting long corner from the right but Chennai goalie Sreejesh saved it at the nick of time. But Muthuselvan's weak clearance went only till Prabjot, who slammed it from the top of the circle.

Dynamos' Ravipal Singh, who scored a brace, was declared 'Lion of the match'.



Steelers outplay Sultans

13/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 13, 2007


Orissa Steelers outplayed Hyderabad Sultans, defeating them 2-0 in a do-or-die first encounter of the second leg of the Premier Hockey League in Chandigarh on Tuesday.

Placed on top with now with 17 points, Steelers went on the offensive only in the second half and did not allow the Sultans, who are placed at the bottom of the table with five points, any opportunity to build up a formidable counter attack.

The first goal for the Steelers came in the seventh minute of the second half when they earned their third penalty corner. Captain Dilip Tirkey deflected the hit to Damandeep Singh, who moved quickly to push it past goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan.

The first goal had to be decided by the video umpire when there was some confusion whether Damandeep had cleanly taken the hit or if had been carried.

Soon after the goal was scored, Sultans earned their first penalty-corner of the match, but they failed to convert it.

Immediately the Steelers launched a surprise counter-attack. Dilip Tirkey sent a long shot to Adnan Zakir, who then passed the ball to Bruno Lugun, who made no mistake firing the ball home with a reverse flick.

The Sultans, who appeared to be playing under pressure, failed to convert all the three penalty corners that came their way.

In the first half, both teams lacked the sting in their attack and failed to build up any threatening attack.

The Steelers earned two back-to-back penalty corners just towards the end of the first half, but failed to convert them.

During the initial stage of the game, Argentina's 30-year-old veteran of 218 international games Mario Almada, playing for the Steelers, tried to fire one through by hitting an angular reverse flick but goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan blocked it well.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Easy for Warriors
13/02/2007
Chandigarh
February 13, 2007

Maratha Warriors proved too good for Bangalore Lions winning 3-1 in its first encounter of the second leg of the Premier Hockey League here on Monday.

Maratha Warriors pumped in the first goal in the 19th minute when Shivender Singh managed to dodge goalkeeper Bharat Chetri. Rehan Butt of Bangalore Lions missed an easy chance to score when he failed to trap a cross from teammate Hari Prasad, which only needed to be deflected in.

Towards the end of the first half, drag-flicker Imran Warsi of Maratha Warriors scored off a penalty corner to make it 2-0.

Butt made some amends for his earlier mistake and trapped and deflected a long pass to Hari Prasad, who gave Bangalore Lions its solitary goal in the seventh minute of the second-half.

However, Bangalore Lions had some more misery coming as Hardeep Singh deflected an on-the-rise pass and managed to deflect it inside the goalpost.

Under pressure, the defending champion was desperately looking for a goal in the second half and Butt made some amends for his mistake earlier on and trapped and deflected a long pass to Hari Prasad, who then gave his team its solitary goal in the seventh minute of the second-half.

However, Bangalore Lions, which looked in disarray almost throughout the match, had some more misery coming its way when Hardeep Singh deflected an on-the-rise pass and managed to deflect it inside the goalpost.

Bangalore Lions also failed to capitalise on the four penalty corners that came its way, while Maratha Warriors converted one of the five penalty corners it earned. After the match, Bangalore Lions stands fourth with nine points, while Maratha Warriors moved to the third spot with 10 points.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Shers, Steelers record wins
04/02/2007
Chennai
February 4, 2007

By S Thyagarajan

The final set of matches in the first phase of the Premier Hockey League on Sunday provided an enjoyable fare to the holiday crowd. While Orissa Steelers continued its winning sequence quelling the challenge of Maratha Warriors 2-0, the other top team, Sher-E-Jalandhar, survived several anxious moments before registering a 2-1 victory over Chennai Veerans.

Both the winners enlarged their aggregate to 14 points each. The position of the teams before the Chandigarh segment, which begins on February 11, promises a far more intense struggle than what was witnessed here.

The star for Orissa Steelers was once again striker Damandeep Singh. Not only did he net both the goals, but played a leading part in galvanising the frontline sallies in the company of Roshan Minz, supported commendably in the midfield by Prabodh Tirkey.

After two desultory sessions, the match surged into life consequent to a splendid goal by Damandeep from an accurate centre by Prabodh Tirkey. Steelers was a bit unlucky too as a wristy penalty corner by Steller hit the cross-piece after D'Souza palmed the ball. However in the last quarter Orissa Steelers put the issue beyond doubt when Damandeep made capital of a pass from Sunil Ekkas.

Moments to relish for the Warriors were few. Even the solitary penalty corner it forced in the third quarter proved futile. The withering shot by Raghuvanshi was smartly saved by the Pakistani goalkeeper Salman Akbar.

In a lively contest that generated plenty of pulsating moments, Sher-E-Jalandhar held on gamely in the last quarter against the fighting Chennai Veerans. If the early trend prompted one to think that the Jalandhar team would overwhelm its rival, the final quarter showed how erroneous this line of thinking was.

Jarnail Singh was the key factor in the Sher-E-Jalandhar frontline. With an elegant display, he overshadowed the more renowned Baljit Dhillon, Gagan and Tejbir Singh. The seniors were content to keep Jarnail in a buoyant mood.

As though to prove this, Jarnail slotted a goal with an impeccable backhander after receiving a pass from Baljit in the second quarter. When Gagan Ajit Singh was named the match Man-of-the-Match, quite a few eyebrows were raised. True, Gagan scored the second goal in the fourth quarter off a Tejbir cross, but the move for this also emanated through Jarnail Singh.

Chennai Veerans missed a couple of openings in the first quarter but thereafter it was subjugated by the rival's consistent probing. When the team really started pressing in the fourth quarter, it was a trifle too late. However, the five penalty corners forced in the last quarter — total six — testified the pressure exerted on the fumbling Jalandhar defence.

When Somanna deflected a free hit by Kuhen Shanmuganathan nine minutes before the final whistle, there was excitement all around. The big holiday crowd fully backed the Veerans after Vir Bahadur confirmed the goal with the third umpire.

Earlier, there was a tense moment for Jalandhar when Kanwalpreet Singh made a goalline save off a penalty corner by Kuhen. The third umpire's ruling came in favour of the Jalandhar squad, which warded off a penalty corner threat after the regulation time.

The results:

Sher-E-Jalandhar 2 (Jarnail Singh, Gagan Ajit Singh) bt Chennai Veerans 1 (Somanna); Man-of- the-Match: Gagan Ajit Singh.

Orissa Steelers 2 (Damandeep Singh 2) bt Maratha Warriors 0; Man of the Match: Damandeep Singh.

Team positions (at the end of the Chennai leg): Orissa Steelers Played six, points 14; Sher-E-Jalandhar 6-14 Bangalore Lions 6-9; Chennai Veerans 6-7; Maratha Warriors 6-7; Chandigarh Dynamos 6-7; Hyderabad Sultans 6-5.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Jugraj slams match winner
02/02/2007
Chennai
February 2, 2007

By S Thyagarajan

Jugraj Singh slammed in the match winner seconds before the hooter to provide full points for Chandigarh Dynamos 3-2 against Hyderabad Sultans in the Premier Hockey League on Friday at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium.

It was a lively encounter that kept the goodly crowd on the edge almost throughout. This was largely on account of the commendable measure of fortitude displayed by Hyderabad Sultans who recovered to cover a 0-2 gap by the time the match meandered into the fourth quarter.

But in the final minutes when tension became clear with the players on both sides making voluble protests for every decision of the umpires, the hockey on view became an eyesore.

Throughout the exchanges were fast and crisp. If the Dynamos looked a bit more fluent, this was due to the splendid mid-field play by the Dutch star, Bomas Balder. The attack too functioned with a touch of efficiency even though Prabhjot Singh frittered away a few easy chances. However, he figured well in the goal that put Dynamos ahead.

A good bout of passing between Balder and Prabhjot culminated in the former providing an astute forward pass to which Deepak Thakur provided the finishing touches on the run. Pepped up by this turn, the Dynamos intensified the pressure.

When Jugraj Singh slotted a penalty corner, veering to the left to beat goal-keeper Devesh Chauhan, it looked as though it would be a cake walk for the Dynamos.

But the Sultans team was determined not to take a reverse lying down. There were fierce moves prompted by pivot Vikram Pillay and wing half Sardara Singh. In the attack, the Pakistani duo, Shakeel Abbasi and Tariq Aziz spelt danger. Equally threatening was the gangling Didar Singh.

As the match entered the third quarter, there were enough indications of Sultans coming up with something interesting. And so it turned out when Tariq Aziz flicked in a rebound off goalkeeper Baljit Singh's pads from a penalty corner drive by Didar Singh.

The Sultans then smelt that the equaliser was there for the asking. The series of moves from the Sultans forced the Dynamos defence to be on the defensive, and a couple of penalty corners heightened the activity near the goal. Baljit Singh did affect a lovely save off Didar, but the latter succeeded in netting the equaliser.

Tempers were frayed and umpires became victims of constant inquisition by the players. The IHF warning seems to have had little effect on the players.

A protest by Vikram Pillay earned him a yellow from umpire Javed Sheikh. Even Jugraj remonstrated repeatedly. In the final minute however, Jugraj produced an immaculate shot to hoist the winner.

Chandigarh Dynamos has seven points from six games while Sultans remain at five from the same number of matches.

Saturday is a rest day.

The result: Chandigarh Dynamos 3 (Deepak Thakur, Jugraj 2) beat Hyderabad Sultans 2 (Tariq Aziz, Didar Singh). MOM: Bomans Balder.



Steel too tough for Lions

01/02/2007
Chennai
February 1, 2007

By S Thyagarajan

With an authoritative display that underscored a veneer of adeptness and athleticism, Orissa Steelers gathered full points against the defending champion, Bangalore Lions 3-0 in the Premier Hockey League on Thursday at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium. This should rank as among the best encounters played in the competition this far.

From the start it was evident that it was Orissa's evening. Every layer worked an admirable measure of proficiency with the frontline performing exceedingly well. What lent the Steelers' sallies a touch of punch was the enterprise of Damandeep Singh. In every foray, he had a hand. Equally energetic were Roshan Minz and Bruno Adrian. The combined thrust of the trio laid the wobbly Bangalore Lions' defence flat.

Prabhodh Tirkey and Sunil Yadav were conspicuous in the midfield with the former playing a heroic role. Prabhodh's goalline save off a stinging drag flick by Len Aiyappa in the last quarter was spectacular. He was instrumental too in blunting the sharpness of attack from the dangerous Pakistani, Rehan Butt.

For reasons inexplicable, the Bangalore Lions' frontline worked only spasmodically. With Rehan blocked so well, the focus had to shift to the left flank where Tushar Khandekar made a few sinuous runs down the line. Amar Aiyamma laboured to inject an element of cohesion into the attack as did Sabu Varkey. But with the mid-field in such a disarray, the Bangalore Lions' frontline work was hardly powerful enough to beat the well organised Steelers' defence headed by veteran Dilip Tirkey.

With the scoreboard remaining blank till late in the second quarter, an absorbing contest was on the cards, and so it proved. It was once again Steller who wrote the script for Steelers. The sequence started from a penalty corner flick. Stellers' attempt was foiled neatly by Amar Aiyamma rushing forward. As the ball rolled ahead, Minz picked it up and crossed. Steller regained possession on top of the circle, and beat Bharat Chetri all ends of up with a withering drive.

Palpably buoyed by the success, the Steelers escalated pressure. The Lions matched and smothered it well while endeavouring to turn it on the opponent. It almost succeeded when Tushar Khandekar broke through forcing goalkeeper Salman Akbar to stretch himself to baulk the shot. A quick clearance by Williams Xalco relieved the tension.

Midway through Orissa Steelers enlarged the lead with an effort that was charming both for its conception and execution. Jasbir Singh plucked the ball from the tentative Lions' skipper Halappa. Then the ball was relayed to Damandeep, whose quick pass set Bruno Adrian in motion. After ambling in nearly 20 yards, Bruno executed a perfect centre. All that Adnan Zakir had to do was to put the stick in front of Chetri to direct the ball into the boards.

Clearly beaten and crestfallen, the Lions made a feeble attempt to regain the initiative, but Prabhodh Tirkey's goal-line save off a Len Aiyappa flicked showed the mood of the Steelers. In the closing minutes, it was Steelers again, with Damandeep Singh capping a fine individual effort, that he richly deserved in the match.

Orissa Steelers now has 11 points from five matches against the nine by Bangalore Lions in six matches.

The result: Orissa Steelers 3 (Tjeerd Steller, Adnan Zakir, Damandeep Singh) beat Bangalore Lions 0. MOM: Sunil Yadav.

Friday's match: Hyderabad Sultans v Chandigarh Dynamos (7 p.m.)

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Late comeback for Warriors
31/01/2007
Chennai
January 31, 2007

S. Thyagarajan

Chennai: Chennai Veerans frittered away the 1-0 advantage seconds before the end of the regulation time and eventually went down to Maratha Warriors by the odd goal in three in the Premier Hockey League which resumed on Wednesday after a brief break.

While Pramod Kumar slotted an early goal for Chennai Veerans, Mahadik scored from a penalty stroke, and Pakistan's Adnan Maqsood tapped in the silver goal to give Maratha Warriors a morale-boosting win.

It is a pity that the tempo failed to go up despite the brisk exchanges that initially suggested an absorbing contest.

Actually it was the Warriors, which had the initiative; but progressively the Veerans gained edge.

If the combination of Shivendra Singh and Mahadik had succeeded early on the script would have been different altogether.

Expectedly, Raja was the cynosure in the Chennai Veerans' attack. An accomplished dribbler, Raja swayed his way through repeatedly. His main ally was the Spaniard, Albert Casas. However, the latter was not allowed enough space. Ajmere Singh followed the hard working Spaniard like a sentinel although not always was his approach beyond reproach.

Still it was the combined effort of Raja and Casas that facilitated Chennai Veerans' goal. A fine bout of passing between the two caught the haphazard Warriors' defence off guard. After moving into the circle both had a chance but Adrian D'Souza succeeded in saving the shots. But the scrimmage that ensued afforded a chance to Pramod Kumar who flicked in amidst spontaneous cheers from the supporters of Chennai Veerans.

The hard working Warriors' mid-field headed by the seasoned Viren Resquinha managed to create space for the frontline which showed neither efficiency nor enterprise. However, the Warriors earned two penalty corners that were smartly saved by Shreejesh.

A yellow card for Shivendra in the third quarter diminished what little sharpness the Warriors attack showed. The Veerans had a splendid chance to enhance the lead when Adam Sinclair broke through delectably but Pawal Lakra who followed him failed to beat Adrian. There was a melee in front of the goal leading neck sprain to Adrian who had to be replaced by Gurpreet Singh.

Just as everything going smoothly in favour of Chennai Veerans, the equaliser surfaced when Shivendra was obstructed by Raghunath. Umpire Vir Bahadur showed no hint of hesitation in showing the spot. Mahadik converted.

In extra-time, there was a palpable intensity for the silver goal. A harsh tackle by Raghunath on Viren resulted in a yellow card suspension for the former. Even as one was visualising another golden goal end, came the match winner from Adnan Maqsood in a penalty corner exercise.

Maratha Warriors gained two points to take its tally to seven out of five while Chennai Veerans earned a point to aggregate 10 from the same number of matches.

The result: Maratha Warriors 2 (Mahadik, Adnan Maqsood) beat Chennai Veerans 1 (Pramod Kumar). MoM: Mahadik.

Thursday's match: Bangalore Lions v Orissa Steelers (7 p.m.).

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Didar does the trick for Sultans
25/01/2007
Chennai
January 25, 2007

By S. Thyagarajan

A splendid penalty corner golden goal by Didar Singh enabled Hyderabad Sultans register its second victory in the Premier Hockey League beating Sher-E-Jalandhar at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Thursday.

It turned out to be an absorbing tussle, notwithstanding the plethora of flawed passes and missed chances. The trend was clearly in favour of Sher-E-Jalandhar in the early stages. But the lack of cohesion between the frontline and midfield spoiled the momentum.

Once again the seasoned Baljit Singh Dhillon shone as playmaker for the Jalandhar team. It is a pity that his teammates did not take full advantage of several of his passes. Dhillon also made a valiant attempt to score as he made a diving attempt off a pass from Baljit Singh Saini.

Earlier, Gagan Ajit Singh and the enigmatic Dutchman, Don Prins, were unsuccessful, missing the target. In the midfield, Imran Khan functioned with a touch of authority, spraying his passes with precision.

The Sultans was well served by goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan. A few of the saves effected were spectacular, the one from Paraminder Singh being the best of the day.

What looked like an attack working in fits and starts from Sultans, acquired a perceptible measure of consistency largely on account of the individual craft of Tariq Aziz and Shakeel Abbasi. The former, in particular, revealed admirable stick-work and was conspicuously incisive. The pair clearly stressed the rival defence, forcing Harpal Singh and Kanwalpreet Singh work overtime to smother the pressure.

While Harpal Singh blunted the edge of the attack, Kanwalpreet Singh was striking in his interceptions. In the final minutes, Kanwal brought off a splendid goalline save from Tariq Aziz, who wove his way through.

Firm supervision by umpires Vir Bahadur and Muhammad Muneer kept the proceedings under control, despite a few instances of frayed tempers and injuries. However, rough play reared its head early in the second quarter when Imran Khan and Nitinkumar charged into each other resulting in a yellow-card suspension for the former. Late in the match Tejbir Singh was given marching orders for a bizarre tackle on Nitin. And again, in the extra-time, there was voluble protest by Hyderabad Sultans over a penalty corner.

Sultans has enhanced its tally to five points from five matches, while Jalandhar gained a point to move to 11.

The action resumes on January 31 after a break.

The result: Hyderabad Sultans 1 (Didar Singh) bt Sher-E-Jalandhar 0. MoM: Devesh Chauhan.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Jugraj pumps in golden goal
24/01/07
Chennai
January 24, 2006

By S.Thyagarajan

Jurgaj Singh pumped in a penalty corner goal, and a golden one at that, to give the first win for Chandigarh Dynamos in the Premier Hockey League on Wednesday against Bangalore Lions at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium.

The teams were locked 0-0 at the end of the regulation time and the verdict remained unaltered in the first part of the extra-time. Then came the golden moment. Jugraj Singh, endeavouring to stage a comeback, slammed in the second penalty corner.

Taken on the whole the match did not cross the line of mediocrity at any point. The long break probably injected an element of rustiness to the contestants. Both struggled to find the rhythm.

But there was a noticeable spell of urgency in the workouts of Dynamos thanks to the verve displayed by Prabhjot Singh. Making repeated inroads into the rival defence, he caused a good deal of alarm to the defence.

The Prabhjot Singh-Deepak Thakur combination posed a real threat to the Lions' defence although goal-keeper Chetri was alert right through. Twice Prabhjot came within an ace of scoring. First, an astute forward pass by Bomas Balder was deflected by Prabhjot Singh but Chetri effected a smart save.

There was however a speck of rough play when Inderjit Chada tackled Arjun Halappa forcing umpire Javed Sheikh to whip the yellow card out.

The Lions' attack leaned heavily on the wing play of Rehan Butt, who however was not in his elements this evening. Twice he missed the mark, hitting the outside of the netting.

The tie was devoid of a penalty corner till the fourth quarter when Chandigarh Dynamos earned the first. However, Jugraj's shot was saved at the expense of corner. Lions had one in the extra-time. But during the golden goal phase, Dynamos secured one which Jugraj captailised on with a thundering drive.


The result: Chandigarh Dynamos 1 (Jugraj Singh) beat Bangalore Lions 0; Man of the match: Jugraj Singh.

Thursday's match: Hyderabad Sultans v Sher-E-Jalandhar ( 7 p.m.).

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Gagan stars for Shers
17/01/2007
Chennai
January 18, 2007

By S Thyagarajan

In what should go as one of the pulsating ties played in this year's Premier Hockey League here, Sher-E-Jalandhar registered a 2-1 verdict against Orissa Steelers amidst high drama, that assumed the contours of a controversy in the fourth quarter at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Thursday.

It was a lively contest, punctuated by fluent moves and good exhibition of individual skills. If Gagan Ajit Singh donned the hero's role for Sher-E-Jalandhar with a goal that underlined the elements of elegance and opportunism at the fag end of the second quarter, the equaliser by Tjeerd Steller of Netherlands from a drag flick was equally enthralling

Unfortunately, a filament of bitterness emerged in the last quarter when a penalty stroke award by the third umpire triggered ugly scenes. A withering penalty corner drive by Kanwalpreet Singh prompted a scrimmage after Salman Akbar made a diving save.

Umpire Pranam Singh signalled a penalty corner that was hotly contested by the Orissa Steelers' players even as the Jalandhar team demanded a stroke. The decision of the third umpire (video) was sought amidst the tense moments.

When the stroke was confirmed the Steelers' players protested more volubly. They argued that there was no infringement on the part of Prabhodh Tirkey as alleged. There were indications of a walk out. But the players were persuaded to continue. Baljit Singh Dhillon converted to enable Sher-E-Jalandhar much to the chagrin of the opponent.

Steelers' coach A.K. Bansal, however, was livid over the verdict and promptly lodged an official protest to the jury. The protest was subsequently rejected.

Sans this aberration, the encounter offered enough excitement throughout. Neither side dominated. Both produced a series of good moves, aided well by the mid-field. Baljit Singh Dhillon was the chief schemer for all the moves Sher-E-Jalandhar.Wing Baljit Singh Dhillon played a steller role bringing into fore all his experience and expertise.

It was Baljit's measured lob from the mid-field that caught the Steelers' defence napping even as Gagan Ajit Singh darted in to beat the advancing Salman Akbar.

Left half Prabodh Tirkey and full back Dilip Tirkey displayed a noticeable measure of assurance and adeptness for Steelers. Both provided excellent forward passes making good use of the hard work put in by Bimal Lakra as the pivot. Sunil Ekka and Roshan Minz were sharp in their movements keeping the Jalandhar defenders on their toes.

There was a hint of Steelers surrendering the edge in the second quarter when Gagan Ajit Singh struck. But it regained the rhythm well in the last quarter. Earlier, a dangerous attempt by Roshan Minz ended with the ball hitting the outside of the net. Then Steller's deflection off a long pass from Dilip Tirkey missed the mark by inches.


The pressure on the Sher-E-Jalandar's defence was palpable. And when it wobbled two penalty corners surfaced in succession. Steller converted delectably, piloting the ball to the roof of the net, leaving Kamaldeep Singh helpless under the bar.

It was a pity that such an absorbing encounter should be marred by the debate over the decision that eventually stamped the result of the contest.

The win takes Sher-E-Jalandhar to the top with a tally of 10 points off four matches eight by Orissa Steelers from the same number of matches.

There is a break from tomorrow in the tournament, which resumes on January 24.

The result: Sher-E-Jalandhar 2 (Gagan Ajit Singh, Baljit Dhillon) bt 1 Orissa Steelers 1 (Tjeerd Steller) . MoM: Tjeerd Steller.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Casas has Veerans smiling
17/01/2007
Chennai
January 17, 2007

By S Thyagarajan

Albert Casas slammed in a gem of a goal to give Chennai Veerans a deserving 1-0 victory over Chandigarh Dynamos in the Premier Hockey League at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Wednesday. The match winner by the Spaniard capped a splendid showing by the Chennai Veerans for which it was the second win in four matches.

Almost throughout the Chennai Veerans, a clear favourite with the big crowd, exhibited a touch of vigour and vibrancy in the workouts. Even in the initial stages, it was evident that the Veerans was having a better of everything. This was largely due to the enterprise and effervescence of the compactly built Albert Casas.

Instrumental in the systematisation of the frontline work was the craft and charm exhibited by V. Raja.

In almost every sally Raja figured prominently ably supported by Somana, mid-fielder Pawal Lakra and wing half Senthil. Lakra should be singled out for praise for the manner in which he controlled the mid field.

The consistency in the attack stressed out the rival defence. Goalkeeper Baljit Singh came under a lot of pressure and effected a nice save from a penalty corner flick by Raghunath.

Notwithstanding the flashy runs by Prabhjot Singh, the Dynamos attack failed to obtain the power and punch required to unsettle the Veerans' defence. However, the attack, which included Deepak Thakur, who was returning to the team after the finger injury and Rajpal Singh, forced three penalty corners in quick succession during the closing minutes of the second quarter. Veerans' goalkeeper Sreejesh effected at least two sparkling saves off the drag flicks from Jugraj Singh.

Aside from this too, Sreejesh proved a tower of strength under the bar, blocking a blinder of a reverse flick from Prabhjot Singh midway in the third quarter. To be fair for Dynamos it must be admitted that the team fought tooth and nail till the final minute. But the Veerans' defence proved resilient enough to smother whatever pressure was brought on it.

Chennai Veerans has enhanced its tally to six points in four matches while the Chandigarh outfit remains at two points from the same number of matches.

The result: Chennai Veerans 1 (Albert Casas) bt Chandigarh Dynamos 0. MoM: Sreejesh (goalkeeper)

Thursday's match: Sher-E-Jalandhar v Orissa Steelers (7 p.m.)

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Dilip secures Orissa victory
17/01/2007
Chennai
Jan 17, 2007

In a listless contest that degenerated into a near fracas in the last quarter, Orissa Steelers obtained full points against Hyderabad Sultans on the strength of a solitary goal by Dilip Tirkey in the Premier Hockey League on Tuesday.

A few more encounters like this will only chase away what little crowds that turn up, notwithstanding the blandishments that will be on offer for the enthusiasts in the form of DVDs and other things from Wednesday.

Tirkey must be complimented for providing relief to the spectators by scoring in the final minute of regulation time. A penalty corner pushed by Bimal Lakra was badly stopped by full-back Saroha. As the ball rolled, Tirkey seized it with palpable relish. Appropriately, he was named man of the match.

The encounter was uneventful. While some credit should go to the manner in which the midfield functioned on both sides, the frontline remained ineffective. Even the usually ebullient Shakeel Abbasi was subdued right through, suffering from want of help from the rest of the forwards. Imagination and ingenuity were conspicuously absent in both attacks.

For Orissa Steelers, pivot Bimal Lakra worked hard; so did left-half Prabodh Tirkey. But the frontline failed to utilise the opportunities that came its way. Sultans looked up to Abbasi and Tariq to provide the sparkle but they were not given adequate support.

Though Sardar Singh and Didar Singh tried to settle into a rhythm, neither succeeded in giving the attack the punch it needed to take on a defence line headed by Tirkey.

Only once did Didar look dangerous in a penalty corner flick, but the Pakistani custodian Salman Akbar made a gallant save in his inimitable style. However, the proceedings remained sluggish, testing the patience of the crowd.

The final quarter witnessed a few bizarre tackles. Off one such tackle, Dutch defender Steeler suffered a bleeding injury. Sultans' full back Sharanjit Singh promptly received the yellow card.

Within minutes, Adnan Zakir elbowed his Pakistani colleague Tariq and was shown the yellow card.

Even as there were visions of extra-time and tie-breaker came Tirkey's goal.

Orissa Steelers has eight points from three matches while Hyderabad Sultans remains at three out of four encounters.


The result: Orissa Steelers 1 (Dilip Tirkey) bt Hyderabad Sultans 0; Man of the match: Dilip Tirkey.

Wednesday's match: Chennai Veerans v Chandigarh Dynamos (7 p.m.).

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Lions whip Veerans
10/01/2007
January 10, 2007
Chennai

By S Thyagarajan

Shrugging off the adverse impact after the 1-7 walloping against Sher-E-Jalandhar on Monday, Bangalore Lions, the defending champion, regained a commendable measure of poise and rhythm to outplay Chennai Veerans in the Premier Hockey League here on Wednesday.

The 6-1 scoreline conveys the embarrassment suffered by the Veerans whose supporters grew a bit restive at the end of the tie. A few bottles were used as missiles to express their disappointment at the outcome.

The win, which yielded full points, takes Bangalore Lions's tally to eight from four matches, while Chennai Veerans remains on three points from the same number of matches.

This was a crucial tie for the Bangalore Lions to remain in the fray. The team made best use of the chances to emerge winner. What set the team on the course was the impeccable penalty corner goal by Len Aiyappa in the early minutes. Interestingly, this was the only penalty corner for Bangalore Lions, but Chennai Veerans forced as many as six.

Encouraged by that splendid start, the Bangalore Lions enmeshed the rival defence with a series of moves that were sharp and systematised. Notwithstanding the addition of the Malaysian stalwart, Kuhen Shanmuganathan, the Veerans's defenders wobbled under pressure.

The Lions's attack was led beautifully by the Pakistani winger, Rehan Butt, who scored three goals, each as attractive as the other. Support for him came in abundance from Sabu Varkey, Hari Prasad and Tushar Khandekar.

The midfield headed by Arjun Halappa provided adequate support for the frontline to maintain a sustained pressure, which resulted in the second goal. This came off a fine combined effort between Rehan and Amar Aiyamma, with the latter beating the Veerans' custodian Sreejesh with a tricky flick.

The Chennai Veerans attacked in fits and starts. Only Raja was conspicuous in waltzing his way through the Lions's defence. Whenever he surged ahead there was a ripple of excitement from the supporters. Midfielder Pawal Lakra worked tirelessly to create a few openings.

Luck, however, did not favour the Veerans, as a stinging flick from a penalty corner by Raghunath crashed against the crosspiece and spun back. A flashy shot by Kuhen was stopped by Chetri at the fag end of the second quarter.

It was Lions that went further ahead when Rehan Butt gave the finishing touches to a work out with Tushar Khandekar.

At 3-0 everything for Veerans had crashed. But the team did not give up. A stroke was awarded when Vikramkanth was stick-checked, but Ragunath hurried his shot that was baulked by Chetri. Even as excitement was escalating came the fourth from a superb solo effort by Tushar Khandekar.

Chennai Veerans still endeavoured to make a match of it. There were several anxious moments for the Lions's defence. Three penalty corners accentuated the tension in the area even as Raghunath slammed one amidst spontaneous cheers.

But the joy proved shortlived as Rehan Butt, fastening to a long shot by Hari Prasad finished with an immaculate shot for the fifth, and his second in the match. The pace of the match probably heightened the tempers leading a yellow card suspension Raghunath in the final minutes.

There will be a five-day break and the league resumes on January 16.

The result: Bangalore Lions 6 (Len Aiyappa, Rehan Butt 3, Amar Aiyamma, Tushar Khandekar) beat Chennai Veerans 1 (Ragunath), MOM: Tushar Khandekar.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Sultans finally win

09/01/2007
January 9, 2006
Chennai

By S Thyagarajan

Casting aside the despondency arising out of the two successive defeats so far, Hyderabad Sultans, the former champion, tasted success with a deserving 2-1 victory over Maratha Warriors in the Premier Hockey League at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Tuesday.

All the three goals came from the Paksitani stars — two from Shakeel Abbasi for Hyderabad Sultans and one for the Warriors by Imran Warsi.

The outcome brought Sultans three points from as many matches while Warriors have five from four matches.

By no stretch of imagination was it a high-quality encounter. But there was intensity, and some thrilling phases kept the moderate crowd interested. The Hyderabad Sultans had the advantage till about half-time, thanks to the Pakistani combination of Shakeel Abbasi and Tariq Aziz.

Served well from the mid-field by Vikram Pillay and Johnson Ekka, the frontline came up with a few threatening sallies stretching the hard working Warrriors' defence headed by Viren Resquinha assisted by Gurbaj Singh.

Prominent in the Sultans' frontline also was the fleet footed Ajitesh Rai. A few of his runs caused alarm. It was a pity that he did not figure in the list of scorers for Hyderabad Sultans. Didar Singh too played his part well, but failed to make the scorers' chart.

Only late in the first half did the Warriors find rhythm. All the hard work of Resquinha and Gurbaj failed to inject verve in the frontline, despite some quick moves by Shivendra Singh and Warsi.

Hyderabad Sultans went ahead in the second quarter. A sequence of some skilful passing between Tariq Aziz and Shakeel Abbasi culminated in the latter beating Adrian D'Souza all ends up. There was noticeable flair in the Sultans' attack after that. Had Didar finished a lovely pass from Ajitesh Rai, the Sultans would have enlarged the lead. Didar shot wide of the mark.

Slowly, the Warriors gained the upper hand profiting from Warsi's sharp moves. And midway through, Warsi found the target with a stinging shot off Shivendra. Within a minute Shivendra served a neat pass to Hemant Gethe, but the latter fumbled when the goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan was at his mercy.

Just as one thought the match was heading for a draw at the regulation time and going into extra-time, came the match-winner from Shakeel Abbasi. A cross from the left wing caught the entire Warriors' defence off guard. Even D'Souza was out of his charge. Abbasi had an empty goal in front, and pushed the ball into the boards.

A speck of rough play in the final minutes resulted in a yellow card suspension for the Warriors' Gaurav Tokhi and Sultans' Saranjit Singh.

The result: Hyderabad Sultans 2 (Shakeel Abbasi 2) bt Maratha Warriors 1 (Imran Warsi). MOM: Shakeel Abbasi.

Wednesday's match: Chennai Veerans v Bangalore Lions (7 p.m.)

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Shers ride on Gagan; Warriors win

08/01/2007
January 8, 2006
Chennai

By S Thyagarajan

Chennai: A combination of craft, charm and consistency contributed to an overwhelming 7-1 victory for Sher-e-Jalandhar against the defending champion, Bangalore Lions, in the Premier Hockey League on Monday. The feature of it was the splendid performance of striker Gagan Ajit Singh who slammed three goals.

Stunning as the outcome was, the fact that the Jalandhar outfit played in top gear from the push off to stamp an incredible result must be acknowledged. Whatever that make up for the essence of hockey was on view. This was largely due to the harmony displayed by the forward line led not only by Gagan Ajit Singh's brightness but also by the grace and elegance of Baljit Singh Dhillon.

While the support lent by Don Prins, Tejbir Singh and Jarnail must be complimented, the effort and energy put in by Baljit Singh Saini at the right half berth was striking. It was the early goal by Gagan Ajit Singh that fashioned the tenor of the proceedings even as the Bangalore Lions' defence began crumbling.

The usually sharp mid-field of Halappa and Vinay became anything but that. The ineptitude of goalkeeper, Bharat Chetri also became so pronounced that at 6-1 he had to be changed for P.T. Rao.

Each of the three goals that Gagan Ajit scored was as breathtaking as the other. The third was outstanding for the power and precision with which he drove the ball home after Saini made a forward pass to Prins. Equally captivating was the fifth by Prins — who deflected of a cross by from Dhillon — the second by Tejbir Singh and the sixth by Jarnail Singh.

If only Prins been a bit more accurate, the margin would have been higher by two more goals. In the dying minutes Sher-e-Jalandhar picked up the seventh through Yudhvir Singh from a penalty corner.

The lone goal for Lions came from Sabu Varkey in the third quarter. Lions remained on five points while Sher-e-Jalandhar took its tally to seven.

Sandip Antil put an end an agonising contest in the sudden death phase to give Maratha Warriors a 5-4 result against Chandigarh Dynamos after the teams were deadlocked 1-1 at the end of regulation time.

What held the attention for the moderate gathering on a somnolent afternoon was the sheer novelty of the tiebreaker format. Fashioned for the first time, it provided goal-keepers, Adrian D'Souzza (Maratha Warriros) and Baljit Singh (Chandigarh Dynamos) enough scope to effect a handful of nice saves to keep the verdict hanging in a balance.

In the new system, the player taking the shoot out has to work his way from the 25-yard line and beat the goalkeeper within eight seconds. Sandip Antil should be singled out for commendation since he emerged successful in both his attempts.

Minus the excitement of the tiebreaker, there was nothing praiseworthy in the encounter. The attack on both sides was laborious. Neither set of forwards demonstrated any hint of ingenuity.

The Maratha Warriors, for whom the mid-field of Gurbaj, Viren and Ajmere functioned well, leaned too much on Shivendra who was below par Actually, it was Bharath Kumar who looked sharper and hoisted the lead off a workout from Shivendra Singh in the second quarter.

Everything pointed out to an outright win for Warriors till the fag end of the last quarter. Minutes before the hooter, a long pass by Timo caused alarm inside the circle even as Sher Singh attempting a flick. As the ball bounced off from Adrian D'Souza, Ravi Pal snatched it and finished.

The Dyanmos was anything but fluent despite managing a few sallies through Prabhjot and Navdeep. The back up from the defence was insufficient to sustain a longer spell of co-ordinated movements.

Maratha Warriors has enhanced its tally to five points from three matches the Dynamos picked up a solitary point on Monday to take the figure to two from the same number of matches.

The results: Maratha Warriors 1 (Bharath Kumar; TB: Shivendra Singh, Sandip Antil 2, Mahadik) beat Chandigarh Dynamos 1 (Ravi Pal; TB: Rajpal, Navdeep, Sher Singh). MOM: Adrian D'Souza.

Sher-E-Jalandhar 7 (Gagan Ajit Singh 3, Tejbir Singh, Don Prins, Jarnail Singh, Yudhvir Singh) beat Bangalore Lions 1 (Sabu Varkey). MOM: Gagan Ajit Singh.

Tuesday's match: Hyderabad Sultans v Maratha Warriors (7 p.m.).

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Steelers shock Veerans; Lions roar past Sultans
07/01/2007
January 7, 2007
Chennai

By a hockey correspondent

Interest perked up in the Premier Hockey League on Sunday as both the matches produced decisive verdicts. There were a few spectacular goals too, sending waves of excitement among the fairly large turn-out.

For the second day running, Orissa Steelers, led by Indian captain Dilip Tirkey, recorded a thrilling 2-1 victory over Chennai Veerans while defending champion Bangalore Lions outplayed Hyderabad Sultans by a comfortable 3-0 margin.

The crowd was a bit disappointed over the insipid performance of Chennai Veerans. The fight in the last five minutes, when Raghunath slammed home a penalty corner, raised great expectations. Until then, Chennai Veerans was subjected to tremendous pressure by the Steelers.

An early goal, and a stunning one at that, by Sunil Ekka, who lunged to deflect a cross from Prabhodh Tirkey, shocked Chennai Veerans which could not recover from that blow quickly.

On the contrary, buoyed by the manner in which the lead was hoisted, Steelers dominated the exchanges. With Bimal Lakra and Prabodh Tirkey feeding the frontline well, the forwards, led well by Roshan Minz, caused panic in the rival defence.

When Tirkey pumped in a penalty corner to enlarge the lead, Veerans' chances of coming back looked remote. Helped by a few quick raids by Raja, Veerans swarmed the Steelers' area and forced a few penalty corners. After missing two, Raghunath found the target with a splendid drag flick. The team was desperate for the equaliser in the last five minutes but the search proved in vain.

Steelers has five points while Veerans' tally remains at three.

In the earlier match, the trend till the end of the second quarter hardly indicated a convincing victory for Bangalore Lions. Things were even though the Lions squad showed more consistency and cohesion.

Expectedly, the cynosure was the Pakistani ace Rehan Butt. In almost every sally, he figured prominently, helped immensely by the seasoned Sabu Varkey and the Dutch star Sander van der Weide. On the left wing, Tushar Khandekar caught the eye as much as midfielder Arjun Halappa whose crisp distribution kept the frontline bristling with life.

Strengthened by the inclusion of Pakistan's Shakeel Abbasi, who missed the opening game against Veerans, Sultans came up with a few sharp moves thanks to the neat forward passes by Sardara Singh. There was a pep in the attack whenever the other Pakistani, Tariq Aziz, joined him.

Play acquired a touch of pace in the third quarter and a spate of penalty corners for Bangalore Lions heightened expectations. Then came the goal from Rehan who finished in his inimitable style after Gurpreet Singh made an attempt that was repulsed by Devesh Chauhan.

In the next quarter, van der Weide smashed from the top of the circle to widen the margin. Then Len Aiyappa drag-flicked the eighth penalty corner to ensure full points for Bangalore Lions. It has five points from two matches while Sultans is yet to open its account.

The results:

Bangalore Lions 3 (Rehan Butt, Sander van den Weide, Len Aiyappa) bt Hyderabad Sultans 0; MOM: Rehan Butt.

Orissa Steelers 2 (Sunil Ekka, Dilip Tirkey) bt Chennai Veerans 1 (Raghunath); MOM: Sunil Ekka.

Monday's matches: Chandigarh Dynamos v Maratha Warriors (2-30 p.m.); Sher-E-Jalandhar v Bangalore Lions (7 p.m.).


(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Steelers, Warriors record win

06/01/2007
January 6, 2006
Chennai

By S. Thyagarajan

Neither of the two matches in the Premier Hockey League here on Saturday produced a fare that can be described as interesting. Since the rules prescribe a mandatory result, the record was complete with both matches ending from a silver goal.


Maratha Warriors prevailed over Sher-E_Jalandhar, while Orissa Steelers, playing its opening game, beat Chandigarh Dynamos by a solitary silver goal.

The only moment that proved exciting was the goal that Shivendra Singh scored for Warriors almost synchronising with the end of the first session of the extra-time. A move involving Gurbaj, Imran Warsi and Hemant Ghete culminated with Shivendra slotting the match-winner.

For all the star content, the Jalandhar outfit is yet to find the rhythm. Everything it did appeared laboured and insipid. The frontline, despite being persistent, lacked the punch, which it normally should have with players in the calibre of Tejbir Singh and Gagan Ajit Singh.

But both were phlegmatic. Once again it was the expertise of Baljit Singh Dhillon that stood out; some of his crafty passes were not used well.

Pakistan's Imran Khan performed with a measure of credit in the midfield for the Jalandhar team, as did deep defender Kanwalpreet Singh.

The Maratha Warriors, on the contrary, made fewer attempts, but were more threatening. Supported by a hard working intermediate line consisting of Gurbaj, Viren and Ajmere, the forwards were brisk though spasmodic. A more unified attack, in which Shivendra was prominent, could have given the Jalandhar defence some cause for concern.

A silver goal off a splendidly executed penalty corner by the Dutch star Tjeered Steller enabled Orissa Steelers get two points against one by Chandigarh Dynamos.

Taken on the whole, it was not a match that would lend itself to a detailed analysis, or a portrayal in eloquent terms. The Dynamos definitely missed the services of attacker Deepak Thakur, who is nursing a fractured finger. He may not be available for this chapter of the PHL, although he has been asked to take a two-week break.

Thakur's absence took away the sting from Dynamos attack, notwithstanding the fluent runs down the flank by Prabhjot Singh. Rajpal Singh was inadequate. To some extent, Ravi Pal laboured to effect a combination with Prabhjot Singh.

In the circumstances, the team looked up to Jugraj Singh's drag flicks. But the only penalty corner that Dynamos earned was saved by goalkeeper Dinesh Ekka in the third session.

Prompted well by Bimal Lakra along with the hard working Prabodh Tirkey, the Steelers was more consistent. Birendra Lakra produced a few eye-catching runs causing enormous anxiety to the rival defence. At least one try-a reverse drive-missed the mark by inches in the second session.

The tie moved into the extra-time during which Steller produced a stunner of a flick, a la Taeke Takema, to signal victory for Steelers.

Meanwhile, Peter van Roth, Chairman, Umpires Committee, FIH, is conducting a three-day umpires clinic here. Around 26 umpires — 20 men and six women — drawn from different parts of the country are taking part.

The results:

Orissa Steelers 1 (Tjeerd Steelers) bt Chandigarh Dynamos 0. Man of the Match: Dinesh Ekka.

Maratha Warriors 1 (Shivendra Singh) bt Sher-E-Jalandhar 0. Man of the Match: Imran Warsi.

Sunday's matches: Bangalore Lions vs. Hyderabad Sultans (5 p.m.); Chennai Veerans vs. Orissa Steelers (7:30 p.m.).


(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Lions pip Warriors; Shers beat Dynamos
05/01/2007
January 5, 2007
Chennai


The defending champion, Bangalore Lions, and Maratha Warriors locked themselves in a fierce contest which meandered into extra-time before a silver goal from Len Aiyappa decided the issue at 2-1. Aiyappa had scored the other goal too. Bangalore Lions will get two points and Maratha Warriors one.

Earlier, Sher-E-Jalandar beat Chandigarh Dynamos 1-0.

From any standpoint, the Lions-Warriors tie was lively, marked by brisk exchanges and moves reflecting a touch of harmony. The dominance of the Bangalore Lions was clear in the early stages. Probably the strongest here, it has the advantage of having two outstanding foreign stars — Rehan Bhat of Pakistan and Sander van der Weide of Holland.

Vinay and Halappa combined well to keep the attack on an even keel. Veteran Sabu Varkey was conspicuous. The fervour was accentuated by the swift runs of Rehan Bhat, who almost smashed the ball in with a reverse shot early in the match. Amar Aiyamma's quick runs caused a lot of flutter.

When Len Aiyappa drag flicked for the Bangalore Lions' lead in the first session it looked a cakewalk.

But Maratha Warriors did not to give in easily. With Mahadik and Shivendra Singh troubling the rival defence, assisted well by Gurjaj Singh and Viren Resquinha, the Warriors gained control. The equaliser was imminent, and surfaced in the second session thanks to Gurbaj Singh's opportunism in a goalmouth scrimmage in which Adnan Maqsood's shot hit the post and spun back.

The pressure on Bangalore Lions was heavy as the Warriors forced five penalty corners to level the tally. A speck of tension surfaced during which Halappa earned a yellow card.

The presence of a plethora of internationals, present and past, failed to elevate the quality of the duel between Sher-E-Jalandhar and Chandigarh Dynamos beyond the line of mediocrity. Even assuming that the players on both sides had not sufficiently warmed up in the competition, the inaccuracy and innocuous forays displayed were appalling.

If one had thought that an element of pugnacity would be the expectable ingredient players coming from the land of Punjab, the prosaic trend almost throughout shocked even the few spectators who had turned up to witness the two top rated combination.

For the few who are constantly making a hue and cry of being pushed out of the squad this was an opportunity to prove the selectors wrong. Gagan in the jersey of Sher-E-Jalandhar did precious little in the attack, missing here and mispassing there. Finally, he flunked a penalty stroke too.

Flicker Jugraj Singh, making a valiant effort to stage a comeback after the tragic accident three years ago, showed the road to recovery is still long and arduous. Surprisingly, it was Baljit Singh Dhillon who evoked memories of those halcyon days. A few of his swift movements and the touch passes he produced kept the Punjab frontline bristling with life.

It was in the fitness of things that Dhillon's crafty push from the penalty corner that paved the way for Sher-E-Jalandhar surging ahead from the goal by Jarnail Singh in the third session.

In the closing minutes, Sher-E-Jalandhar widened the margin. A raid involving Gagan and Tejbir ended with Irshad Ali coming in the way. The resultant stroke awarded by umpire Muhammad Muneer was flicked weakly by Gagan for Baljit Singh to make an effortless save. Meanwhile, the physio attached to the Indian hockey team has decided to quit. The 29-year-old Australia-based Ravi Kanakamedala is returning to Hobart, planning a change in career.

Inducted into the National squad on the eve of the 2005 Champions Trophy here, Ravi has been with the team in all the major tournaments, including the Commonwealth Games at Melbourne, the World Cup at Monchengladbach, and the recent Asian Games at Doha.

Ravi is not keen to review his contract, which expires shortly, and has decided to pack his bags at the earliest. He will not be in Chandigarh for the second phase of the Premier Hockey League.

The results: Sher-E-Jalandhar 1 (Jarnail Singh) beat Chandigarh Dynamos 0; MOM: Kalwalpreet Singh: Bangalore Lions 2 (Len Aiyappa 2-extratime) beat Maratha Warriors 1 (Gurbaj Singh).: MOM: Len Aiyappa.

(Courtesy, The Hindu)



Veerans Thrash Sultans
04/01/2007
January 4, 2007
Chennai

By a Hockey Correspondent

Amidst a festive ambience that was embellished by an exotic opening ceremony, edition three of the Premier Hockey League (PHL) was put on boards at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Thursday.

A large turnout savoured every moment of it with celebrities of the show business — singer Vasundara Das, actor Madhavan and dancer-model Yana Gupta — during the hour-long incandescent ceremony, the like of which has never been witnessed at a hockey competition in this metropolis.

Consciously designed to heighten the atmosphere and to elevate the sagging spirits of the hockey community, it really set the tone and tenor for the two-month long PHL.

Examined within the parameters of quality and technical excellence neither of the first match contestants - Chennai Veerans and Hyderabad Sultans -showed anything related to be projected in illuminating terms. But at the end of it all it was Chennai Veerans, who trooped out winner by an imposing margin of four goals to one.

Probably it was early for the motley combination of players to settle down in their first encounter. There were however fleeting moments. One was the bewitching backhander by Vikram to put Chennai Veerans ahead in the first session.

Latching on to a loose defensive work by Hyderabad Sultans, Raja, easily the best of the Veerans' forwards, provided an adroit pass, which was capitalised well by Vikram. A couple of penalty corners did heighten the tension but the seasoned Devesh Chauhan proved equal to the task till that blinder of a shot by Vikram bewildered him by its velocity and trajectory.

The Veerans picked up rhythm much quicker than the rival. While Raja and Adam Sinclair provided the thrust, the defence proved effective with Vikramjit Singh flashing into the picture now and then. Drag-flicker Raghunath had two tries in the first session but the shots were anything but sharp.

Initially, Hyderabad Sultans showed a semblance of domination, thanks to the probing runs by Didar Singh served well by the pivot Vikram Pillay. The pressure exerted was conspicuous in the second part during which there were four penalty corners. Sreejesh managed to ward off the threat with beaming nonchalance. Even during the dying minutes, he effected a few smart saves. However in the final minute, Vikram Pillay slotted in a penalty corner scrimmage to hoist the only goal for Sultans.

Chennai Veerans clung to the 1-0 lead until the end of the second session. The lead was enlarged within minutes of the third. A lovely cross by Pakistan's Eshanullah broke the defence. Adam Sinclair, leading the Veerans, fumbled but Suresh Kumar flicked in the rebound.

Progessively, the Veerans gained control and displayed a measure of persistence raising hopes of striking again. And strike it did when Adam Sinclair scored after an attempt by Raja was saved by Devesh Chauhan. Sinclair netted once again making capital of a goal-mouth skirmish.

Sinclair was named man-of-the-match.

Mr. T.P.M. Mohideen Khan, State Minister for Sports and Youth Welfare, declared the event open. The players were presented to him.

The result: Chennai Veerans 4 (Vikram, Suresh Kumar, Adam Sinclair 2) beat Hyderabad Sultans 1 (Vikram Pillay).

Friday's matches: Chandigarh Dynamos v Sher-E-Jalandhar (2-30 p.m.); Maratha Warriors v Bangalore Lions (7 p.m.).

(Courtesy, The Hindu)

 

 

 

     

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