Bhopal Badshahs crowned themselves temporary kings of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey tonight by edging past a fighting Delhi Wizards by the odd goal in three in a fifth round encounter at the Aishbagh Stadium in the Madhya Pradesh capital tonight.
It was the first home game for the Vasudevan Bhaskaran coached side who turned out in their smart home colours of green & black and their third win made them clear leaders of the league with 10 points while the visitors (6 points) slumped to their third defeat and remain second from bottom.
The headband sporting Karan Bhaskaran is proving to be the trump card for the Badshahs by flicking in his fifth goal of the championships from the locals’s first penalty corner in the 14th minute. Vikramjeet Singh helped the Wizards draw level in the 33rd minute, powering his flick past an in form Baljit Singh with Casey Henwood not in position at the post.
But local hero and man of the match Sameer Dad, one of the last practitioners of the famed Bhopali ‘jadugiri’ and A B Cheeeyanna (42nd minute) then combined in a superb move with the latter providing the finishing touch for the match winner.
The goodly crowd thronging the venue and Saif Ali Khan lending a ‘nawabi’ touch to the proceedings from the VIP enclave, enjoyed some great fare as the teams dished out free flowing hockey in this fast paced game with action swinging from end to end and Delhi giving back as good as they got.
Rajpal Singh led from the front with his energetic runs all over the park and gave Delhi the overall edge over the hosts though their intensity slackened in the later stages of the match. Salim Abassi too conjured up some good moves with his magical wand. Philip Sunkel could have put Delhi ahead in the 6th minute itself but Bhopal custodian Baljit Singh rushed out and spoilt his angle resulting in the German trying a scooped shot that went awry.
However, with defences from both sides holding sway and chances and penalty corners at a premium, the scorers were not unduly disturbed by the sorcerers or the royals. The shooters were not at their best and quite a few chances went abegging.
Former India goalkeeper Baljit played a major hand and foot in the Badshahs’ victory, stopping Mathias Minz’s fierce reverse hit from the top of the circle in the third quarter. He then sat on the ball and conceded a penalty corner, only to rise to the occasion and palm away Vikramjeet’s drag flick.
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