Punjab enjoyed its share of luck to beat Haryana 4-2 in an intense semifinal contest of the National junior hockey championship at the Major Dhyan Chand Stadium here on Saturday.
In the final on Sunday, Punjab will lock horns with Odisha which thrashed Sports Authority of India (SAI) Bhopal 6-1 in the other semifinal clash.
In a battle between two equal sides, Punjab seized initiative by pressing hard in the first 20 minutes. Akashdeep Singh grabbed a good opportunity to beat a defender with a quick tap and put the ball into the goal in the sixth minute.
Haryana staged a fightback after faltering on a few occasions. The defending champion restored parity through Gagandeep Singh Jr.'s penalty corner conversion in the 29th minute.
The deadlock continued for 25 minutes as the two teams wasted a lot of energy in trading futile attacks. Soon after Punjab's Talwinder Singh missed a sitter, Haryana sprung a surprise to earn a penalty stroke. Gagandeep (54th) made no mistake in completing his brace.
Gurjinder Singh utilised a short corner to score the equalizer after five minutes.
The match seemed heading towards extra-time when a serious lapse by the Haryana defenders offered Ramandeep Singh (64th) a loose ball and the Punjab forward made the most of the fabulous chance.
Under pressure, Haryana conceded another goal as Gurjinder struck again in the final seconds.
“The boys were tired after playing four consecutive matches. We were lucky to get the third goal,” said Punjab coach Autar Singh.
Odisha displayed a clinical performance to outshine SAI Bhopal.
Despite trailing 0-1 in the sixth minute, when Nitesh found the mark for the Bhopal team, Odisha held its nerve and maintained a good rhythm.
With fine interchanging of positions, the Odisha players maintained a good grip over the match and struck a balance between their attack and defence. The effortless midfielders exhibited cohesion to torment the rivals.
Captain Amit Rohidas's deft penalty corner conversion in the 12th minute leveled the scores after which Odisha never looked back.
Odisha's hero of the day was Amonmirash Tirkey, the versatile striker who scripted the plot for three spectacular goals. He supplied the ball to an unmarked Bikash Kujur (18th) to help Odisha take the lead and then provided a splendid cross to Josech Toppo (45th) to execute a sensational deflection.
On another occasion, Tirkey's powerful hit kissed the Haryana goalkeeper's pads before resulting in an own goal (24th).
Rohidas (57th) achieved his double and Saroj Ekka (63rd) recorded a goal against his name to help Odisha reach the final for the second consecutive year.
The results (semifinals): Odisha 6 (Amit Rohidas-2, Bikash Kujur, own goal, Josech Toppo, Saroj Ekka) bt SAI Bhopal 1 (Nitesh); Punjab 4 (Gurjinder Singh-2, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Singh) bt Haryana 2 (Gagandeep Singh Jr.).
Keywords: National junior hockey