Punjab dismantled a listless Haryana 4-1 to cruise into the final of the second Hockey India Senior National championship here on Monday. Drag-flicker Gurjinder Singh scored twice in the first half, before Sarvanjit Singh and Satbir Singh struck to seal Haryana’s fate.
In Tuesday’s final at the KSHA Stadium, Punjab will face Air India, which recorded a bitter, controversial 3-2 win over Karnataka in the second semifinal.
A closer contest had been anticipated in the first match but the defending champion turned in a limp display. Punjab began well and went ahead in the 15th minute, Gurjinder burying his side’s first penalty corner high to the goalkeeper’s right. He was at it again six minutes later, this time lashing the ball into the bottom corner, as Punjab grabbed control of the contest.
Haryana was surprisingly unconvincing, failing to string passes together. Sardara Singh was not at his best, while the forwards Bharat Chikkara and Karamjit Singh did not see enough of the ball.
Punjab continued with its ways in the second half. Baljit Singh Saini’s men, in contrast to the opponent, linked together effectively, Ravipal Singh and the skipper Sarvanjit troubling Haryana’s defenders no end. The latter netted the team’s third in the 51st minute, rounding off a fine move that involved the hugely impressive Satbir Singh and Akashdeep Singh.
Satbir got on the scoresheet himself four minutes later, exchanging passes with Akashdeep, steering wide of the ’keeper, and slotting home from a tight space. Haryana pulled one back through Naveen Antil, but the contest was long dead.
Karnataka, meanwhile, will be desperately aggrieved at a result it will see as undeserved. The host controlled the game for 50 minutes, scoring twice through Pundalik Bellary and Nitin Thimmaiah (a brilliant solo effort), before things took a chaotic turn. Air India, hitherto under the cosh, equalised from two penalty strokes, both converted by Arjun Halappa. The first, awarded for Vikram Kanth’s alleged infringement on Shivendra Singh on 50 minutes, was debatable.
There was less controversy over the second, as Air India, completely pedestrian till that stage, drew level in the 70th minute.
The home side, though, will cry foul over a number of umpire Ripudaman Sharma’s decisions, not least the penalty corner that resulted in Air India’s winner.
Javed Shaikh, the umpire stationed in the other half, had signalled for a free hit, but the original call stood. V.S. Vinaya saw his drag-flick, taken after the buzzer had gone, come off the post, but he buried the rebound.
There was a definite edge to proceedings in the second half, things boiling over at one point when both captains, V.R. Raghunath and Halappa, were yellow-carded.
Karnataka was shattered at the end; it had been sunk, ironically, by two of its very own.
The results: Semifinals: Karnataka 2 (Pundalik Bellary 32, Nitin Thimmaiah 44) lost to Air India 3 (Arjun Halappa 50, 61, V.S. Vinaya 70); Punjab 4 (Gurjinder Singh 15, 21, Sarvanjit Singh 51, Satbir Singh 55) bt Haryana 1 (Naveen Antil 58).