Defending champion Punjab, as is its wont, made a mincemeat of Haryana 6-2, while Odisha stole the thunder with a 6-0 win over Sports Authority of India (AAI) in the semifinals of the Hockey India fourth junior national men’s championship at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Saturday.
For Odisha, which has been a finalist in three previous editions, this could well be a great opportunity to script a new chapter. It was a sight to behold as Odisha’s forwardline and midfield worked in complete unison and came up with a robust game, especially in the first half.Wonderful touch
Prakash Barla’s wonderful touch from the left resulted in Odisha’s first goal, which Sanjit Toppo had ample time to employ a free hit into the cage. The best part of Odisha’s game was that the deep defence seldom gave SAI forwards any leeway to strike the ball. And the frontline was in a different league, making the team’s coach Pradeep Kumar — who kept saying that the forwards missed lots of scoring chances in the earlier matches — heaping praise on them. The second goal was a fine exhibition of speed and understanding.
A neat set-piece between skipper Joseph Toppo and Felix Baa resulted in the latter tapping it home. The third goal emerged nearly ten minutes before the end of the first half when Nilam Sanjeep Xess scooped one over the keeper’s head.
Odisha’s momentum dropped a bit in the second session but it still the team produced three well-executed goals through Teophil Kumar and Prasan Tirkey (2).
There wasn’t any doubt as to who will emerge triumphant in the Punjab-Haryana duel. It was only the goal margin that was the point of discussion. Punjab improved its penalty-corner conversion with two goals (out of four) from corners, courtesy full back Harmanpreet Singh.
Haryana rattled Punjab’s defence for a brief while in the second quarter. Trailing 4-0, Haryana scored twice in as many minutes through Sahil Dabas and Nikhil Saroha, but Punjab came back even stronger, scoring two more.
The results (semifinals): Punjab 6 (Harmanpreet Singh 2, Parvinder Singh 2, Ajit Pandit, Lovepreet Singh) bt Haryana 2 (Sahil Dabas, Nikhil Saroha); Odisha 6 (Prasan Tirkey 2, Sanjit Toppo, Felix Baa, Nilam Sanjeep Xess, Teophil Kujur) bt SAI 0.