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World Series Hockey -- Badshahs on course for royal salute

726   //    25 Mar 2012, 23:02 IST

Bhopal Badshahs kept themselves in line for a top four finish by sinking the Mumbai Marines 2-1 in a 12th round Bridgestone World Series Hockey clash in their hometown tonight.

The royals took the lead through the red hot local talent Affan Yousuf in the first quarter while new Pakistani recruit Mudassar Ali Khan got the match winner in the last quarter off a penalty corner deflection. Sandeep Michael reduced the margin for the losers in the third quarter off a set piece.

The win catapulted the former table toppers into fourth position with 17 points from five wins and two draws while Andrew Meredith’s team slumped to their sixth consecutive defeat and remain in the cellar with 10 points. The Marines had won the first leg encounter by a solitary goal.

The Badshahs went on the offensive from the word go and weaved pleasing patterns all across the Aishbagh Stadium park, peppering the Mumbai citadel with a barrage of attacks. But they could not make it count due to the prodigality of their shooters and the resoluteness of left-back Ajmer Singh in the Mumbai defence which got him the man of the match award. Devinder Walmiki also saved a certain goal for the visitors by keeping out a penalty corner attempt by Shailendra Bundela on the goalline.

It took Bhopal all of 12 minutes before the hosts could unlock the visiting defence. That happened when young Yousuf, son of former international Mohammed Yousuf and a star in the making, neatly trapped a cross from the right, beat a defender and then coolly dispatched the ball to the target in the 13th minute even as Adrian D’Souza left his line to narrow the angle.

The hosts could have gone two up twice in the second quarter but South African Geowynne Gamiet crashed an unstoppable shot against the crossbar and then Yousuf struck the far post off a Waseem Ahmed pass seconds before the half-time hooter.

Mumbai came back strongly after the reverse and mounted a few raids, mostly along the right flank, but they also gave away possession cheaply on several occasions. Their first shy at the rival goal came only in the 23rd minute but Baljit Singh padded away Dalher Singh’s snap shot off a swift counter. The formerIndia custodian had to be alert to thwart the Mumbai forwards on a few more occasions

The equaliser that Mumbai finally managed in the 45th minute was farcical. Despite making a complete hash of their second penalty corner routine, Prabodh Tirkey still managed to take a weak shot and the pusher Sandeep Michael was well positioned to deflect his try onto the boards.
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Mario Rodrigues is a senior sports journalist and football & hockey writer. He is the author of the acclaimed biography of Ranjitsinhji titled ‘Batting for the Empire’.
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