Mumbai Marines belatedly unfurled their sails in floom bloom at the Mahindra Stadium tonight to send Chennai Cheetahs crashing out of the Bridgestone World Hockey Series by inflicting a crushing 4-1 defeat on the visitors.
The reverse meant that the Cheetahs stayed rooted to fifth spot with 19 points and allowed Mumbai’s western neighbours, the Pune Strykers who were in fourth place with 21 points, to seal their semi-final slot. Mumbai remained in last position though with 13 points but this concluding win allowed Andrew Meredith’s team to bow out with grace.
Table toppers Chandigarh Comets will now meet the Strykers in the first semi-final atBangaloreon Sunday while second placed Sher-E-Punjab will meet third placed Karnataka Lions in the second semi-final to follow in Mumbai — unless there is a change in script.
The winners ran up a 3-0 lead through goals by Bhanmali Xess (3rd minute), Ajmer Singh (20th minute penalty stroke) and Troy Sutherland (62nd minute) before Jose Brasa’s boys pulled one back through drag flick expert Imran Warsi off their eighth penalty corner in the 65th minute. But it was a tad too late to change the script and Aijub Ekka (70th minute) turned up to deliver the coup de grace.
For a team which has been at the receiving end for the most part of the campaign and have suffered the most reserves, nine in all, the Mariners showed suprising resilience and enthusiasm for the task tonight. The deep defence comprising the redoubtable Ajmer Singh and the Kiwi, James Nation, were as steady as rocks while Adrian D’Souza had one of his best outings in the tournament tonight pulling off some stunning saves to keep the Cheetahs at bay. The hosts also attacked with gusto intermittently and were rewarded for their persistence with a home sweet home victory.
On the other hand, captain Brent Livermore worked tirelessly to revive the fortunes of the southerners while Vikram Pillay made a few of his blistering runs too but their forwards were not sharp enough to unlock the Mumbai defence.
Mumbai went into an early lead in the fourth minute when Bhanmali Xess hit the target after Troy Surtherland had weaved his way into the circle and set him up.
The Cheetahs forced three penalty corners in succession but danger Imran Warsi’s flicks were blocked, once on the line by a defender and the others due to fantastic saves by D’Souza. Thereafter, the visitors enjoyed a few penetrations deep into Mumbai territory with Warsi making inroads along the left flank, but the Mariners guarded their coastline with steely determination.
Ajmer Singh then coverted a facile penalty stroke as the Cheetah goalkeeper Santosh Kumar moved to the wrong way. The third goal was a nice deflection by Sutherland off a hard hit into the circle by the enterprising Devendra Walmiki. And Ekka finished off the contest with a stiff hit to the boards following a last minute counter in tandem with Daler Singh.