Gagan Ajit dons the hero's role
Chennai: In what should go as one of the pulsating ties played in this year's Premier Hockey League here, Sher-E-Jalandhar registered a 2-1 verdict against Orissa Steelers amidst high drama, that assumed the contours of a controversy in the fourth quarter at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium on Thursday.
It was a lively contest, punctuated by fluent moves and good exhibition of individual skills. If Gagan Ajit Singh donned the hero's role for Sher-E-Jalandhar with a goal that underlined the elements of elegance and opportunism at the fag end of the second quarter, the equaliser by Tjeerd Steller of Netherlands from a drag flick was equally enthralling
Unfortunately, a filament of bitterness emerged in the last quarter when a penalty stroke award by the third umpire triggered ugly scenes. A withering penalty corner drive by Kanwalpreet Singh prompted a scrimmage after Salman Akbar made a diving save.
Umpire Pranam Singh signalled a penalty corner that was hotly contested by the Orissa Steelers' players even as the Jalandhar team demanded a stroke. The decision of the third umpire (video) was sought amidst the tense moments.
When the stroke was confirmed the Steelers' players protested more volubly. They argued that there was no infringement on the part of Prabhodh Tirkey as alleged. There were indications of a walk out. But the players were persuaded to continue. Baljit Singh Dhillon converted to enable Sher-E-Jalandhar much to the chagrin of the opponent.
Steelers' coach A.K. Bansal, however, was livid over the verdict and promptly lodged an official protest to the jury. The protest was subsequently rejected.
Sans this aberration, the encounter offered enough excitement throughout. Neither side dominated. Both produced a series of good moves, aided well by the mid-field. Baljit Singh Dhillon was the chief schemer for all the moves Sher-E-Jalandhar.Wing Baljit Singh Dhillon played a steller role bringing into fore all his experience and expertise.
It was Baljit's measured lob from the mid-field that caught the Steelers' defence napping even as Gagan Ajit Singh darted in to beat the advancing Salman Akbar.
Left half Prabodh Tirkey and full back Dilip Tirkey displayed a noticeable measure of assurance and adeptness for Steelers. Both provided excellent forward passes making good use of the hard work put in by Bimal Lakra as the pivot. Sunil Ekka and Roshan Minz were sharp in their movements keeping the Jalandhar defenders on their toes.
There was a hint of Steelers surrendering the edge in the second quarter when Gagan Ajit Singh struck. But it regained the rhythm well in the last quarter. Earlier, a dangerous attempt by Roshan Minz ended with the ball hitting the outside of the net. Then Steller's deflection off a long pass from Dilip Tirkey missed the mark by inches.
The pressure on the Sher-E-Jalandar's defence was palpable. And when it wobbled two penalty corners surfaced in succession. Steller converted delectably, piloting the ball to the roof of the net, leaving Kamaldeep Singh helpless under the bar.
It was a pity that such an absorbing encounter should be marred by the debate over the decision that eventually stamped the result of the contest.
The win takes Sher-E-Jalandhar to the top with a tally of 10 points off four matches eight by Orissa Steelers from the same number of matches.
There is a break from tomorrow in the tournament, which resumes on January 24.
The result: Sher-E-Jalandhar 2 (Gagan Ajit Singh, Baljit Dhillon) bt 1 Orissa Steelers 1 (Tjeerd Steller) . MoM: Tjeerd Steller.