Neeraj’s 69th minute goal helped Sports Authority of India (SAI), Bhopal pip Uttar Pradesh 3-2 and move into the semifinals of the National junior hockey championship at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here on Friday.
In other quarterfinal matches, Odisha rallied to edge past Karnataka 2-1, Haryana overcame a spirited challenge from Himachal Pradesh to post a 4-1 win and Punjab outclassed Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy 7-1.
The SAI team takes on Odisha, while Haryana meets Punjab in the last four stage on Saturday.
The Bhopal side played a fast-paced game to outwit the host with two early goals. Affan Yousuf (6th minute) opened the account with a stunning reverse flick from the edge of the circle. Ajay Prabhakar (14th) produced a fine finish off a penalty corner to put SAI in the driver’s seat.
But Uttar Pradesh, strongly backed by the home supporters, erased the two-goal deficit to stage a solid fight-back. Arjun Yadav pulled one back before Sanjeet Singh Chauhan tapped in a timely cross to level the scores.
However, in the closing minutes, an unmarked Neeraj took advantage of a defensive lapse at the goalmouth to net the winner for the Bhopal outfit.
The match witnessed some unpleasant moments following altercations between the players of both sides.
It resulted in temporary suspensions for one member of the home team and two from SAI.
Defending champion Haryana found it difficult to breach Himachal’s solid defence. The Himachal boys protected their post by closing the gaps and frustrating Haryana.
But Gagandeep Singh Jr. soon found the target with an accurate drag-flick to provide Haryana the breakthrough in the 35th minute.
After the break, striker Gagandeep Singh struck a brace (40th, 66th) while Amit Kumar (53rd) banked on his fine stick work to inflate Haryana’s lead.
Gaganpreet (60th) scored off a short corner to pull one back for Himachal.
Last year’s runner-up Odisha rode on Amit Rohidas’ penalty corner conversions (48th, 59th) to beat Karnataka. Karnataka had earlier taken the lead through Aiyappa Paradanda (38th).
Gurjinder Singh (8th and 48th) shot home twice in Punjab’s convincing victory over MPHA. Akashdeep Singh (10th), Talwinder Singh (12th), Varun Kumar (28th), Satvir Singh (39th) and Harjeet Singh (43rd) completed the tally. Sanglakram Nilakanta scored a consolation for MPHA.
The results (quarterfinals): Odisha 2 (Amit Rohidas 2) bt Karnataka (Aiyappa Paradanda); Punjab 7 (Gurjinder Singh 2, Akashdeep Singh, Talwinder Singh, Varun Kumar, Satvir Singh, Harjeet Singh) bt Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy 1 (Sanglakram Nilakanta); Haryana 4 (Gagandeep Singh 2, Gagandeep Singh Jr., Amit Kumar) bt Himachal Pradesh 1 (Gaganpreet); SAI Bhopal 3 (Affan Yousuf, Ajay Prabhakar, Neeraj) bt Uttar Pradesh 2 (Arjun Yadav, Sanjeet Singh Chauhan).
Keywords: National junior hockey championship