Haryana gets past Punjab in the other semifinal

The final of the National women’s hockey championship here on Tuesday will be a repeat of last year’s, with champion Railways taking on Haryana.

In the semifinals on Monday, the star-studded Railways managed to struggle past Jharkhand 2-1 while Haryana outplayed Punjab 3-1 at the Guru Govind Singh Sports College.

However, the two games were of contrasting nature.

The game between Jharkhand and Railways, as expected, was a close affair.

Despite the presence of several India players in the side, Railways struggled to find momentum and was guilty of missing several chances.

The sturdy Jharkhand defence only added to its problems. The first sign of things going wrong came when Jasjeet Kaur’s drag-flick off the team’s first penalty corner rebounded off the crossbar.

This came soon after Rosalin Dung Dung had failed to connect a cross in front of the goal. Despite the big names, Railways was on the back foot.

Jharkhand, on the other hand, played with purpose, and was faster, attacking more and creating chances. It had only its own errors to blame, however, missing open chances to score in the first 15 minutes.

Railways got its first goal in the 30th minute when Laurenua Kerketta slotted the ball in from close range. Four minutes later, she was again in the thick of things, taking two shots before scoring as Jharkhand suffered a rare defensive lapse.

Railways came out an improved side in the second half, but so did Jharkhand, the latter creating three penalty corners but failing to convert any.

It finally managed to pull one back through Punita Minz at the stroke of time but it was too late by then.

The difference between the two teams was experience. Railways, with the likes of veterans Asunta Lakra, Joydeep Kaur and Jasjeet Kaur in its ranks, managed to get a grip on its game after the initial stutter while Jharkhand, trailing by two goals, only ended up committing more mistakes.

The three Railways players proved why they are still among the best in the country — Lakra, in particular, was the chief architect of the victory, controlling the midfield effectively and managing ball distribution intelligently.

The second game was a dull affair. Haryana was the better team, but neither side matched the pace and skills seen in the first match.

After a goalless first half, Haryana scored three quick goals to take a comfortable lead.

Punjab reduced the margin with a goal from Lalremruati, but that was it.

The final looks all set to be a one-sided affair going Railways’ way, while Jharkhand, decidedly better than finalist Haryana, will consider itself unlucky to have missed out on making the final only because it ran into a better side in the semifinals.

The results: Semifinals: Railways 2 (Laurenua Kerketta-2) bt Jharkhand 1 (Punita Minz); Haryana 3 (Narinder, Reena Devi, Udita) bt Punjab 1 (Lalremruati 52).

More In: Hockey | Sport