In one of the most amazing turnarounds in the ongoing Bridgestone World Series Hockey, Bhopal Badshahs came back from the dead to share eight goals with Chandigarh Comets after being down 0-4 at half time.
The capacity crowd at the Aishbagh Stadium were a shell-shocked lot as the visitors converted three out of three penalty corners and added a field goal later to go into a commanding lead inside 30 minutes in this topsy turvy 11th round clash. But they left the venue on a high as the royals successfully defended their kingdom and redeemed their honour by leveling the score and even threatening to win.
For the Comets, Sukhwinder Singh Gabbar scored two, from a penalty corner variation and rebound on either side of a drag flick by Gurjinder Singh whom skipper Rehan Butt described as another Sandeep Singh in the making. Mohammed Amir Khan added a fourth in the 30th minute, blasting in a loose ball after Butt, who has gradually come into his own, had worked his way into the circle. The Pakistani however missed a sitter when he crashed the ball past the far post with the goalkeeper out of position in the third quarter or Comets could have scraped through.
Badshahs, who were quite out of sync in the first two sessions, rallied strongly in the last two and upcoming talent Afffan Yousuf (39th minute), Sameer Dad (47th) and Shailendra Bundela (a brace of penalty corners in the last quarter) helped Vasudevan Bhaskaran’s outfit make a match of it.
Harendra Singh’s rattled team, who messed up the script today, take their points tally to 19, three behind table toppers Sher-E-Punjab. The Badshahs remain in sixth place with 14 points and must now win their last three games, all at home, and hope other results go their way if they must have an outside chance of squeezing into the top four.
New Pakistani signing, Mudassar Ali Khan, worked well in tandem with his national colleague Wasim Ahmed and skipper Dad as the Badshahs found their bearings in the latter part of the match. Bhaskaran also deserves credit for the turnaround as the 1980 Olympics gold medal captain did not throw in the towel and encouraged his wards to keep their cool and fight back.
Comets called all the early shots and Gabbar, the carousing Canadian international who now has nine strikes to his name, opened the account in the 7th minute from an interesting penalty corner variation. Goals then flowed Chandigarh’s way as the highly efficient half-back Ajitesh Roy and clever inside forward Sher Singh gave them the attacking edge. But they could not sustain their momentum through the entire match and the initiative slipped into local hands much to the delight of the home crowd.