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World Series Hockey - Cheetahs outsmart the Strykers

657   //    15 Mar 2012, 21:32 IST

Finally, there was some southern comfort as the Chennai Cheetahs, who forced their way back into contention with a hard fought 3-1 victory over a listless Pune Strykers in an eighth round clash of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the PCMC Stadium. The first leg encounter between the two sides had ended in a 3-3 tie.

It was a good comeback for the southern side who had lost their last two matches and their third win took them to 10 points, the same as Mumbai Marines. The home team remain just ahead in fourth place with 12 points after their second defeat.

Adam Sinclair, Vikas Sharma and Imran Warsi helped guru Jose Brasa underline his superiority over his chela Gundeep Kumar with the Pakistani converting a penalty corner in the last minute of play to take his tournament tally to a lucky 13.

Pune’s skipper for the day, Roshan Minz, reduced the margin immediately after half time when the rebound from Gurpreet’s flick off Pune’s third penalty corner rolled to him at the top of the circle. He walloped it back towards the target, the ball deflecting in off a defender.

The game got off to a slow start with both sides measuring each other up, which was a striking contrast to the Strykers’ swift take off from the blocks in earlier outings. Brent Livermore functioned as a deep lying playmaker and the Cheetahs indulged in patient build ups, in order not to get caught napping at the back, considering that they have conceded more goals than they have scored.

The burgundy coloured home outfit were strangely bereft of their customary zip and zest tonight though young Nikkim Thimmiah tried his best to get the hosts on the move by linking up well between defence and attack. They did raise the tempo of their game late in the day but without much success, leaving a rather subdued Mario Almada, who earned the penalty corner that led to their only goal, feeling frustrated.

Ex Olympian Sinclair scored his fourth goal of the league for the winners, being on hand at the post to deflect in a shot at goal by Mark Harris in the 9th minute. Sinclair could have scored again soon after the start of the second quarter after bursting into the D following a 1-2 with Vikram Pillay. But goalkeeper Guri rushed out in the nick of time and forced him to push wide.

Sharma made it 2-0 in the 29th minute after cutting in from the right along the baseline and being around at the goalmouth to propel the ball past Guri from Sinclair’s try which looked like it was going in anyway.

Damandeep Singh had a great chance to pull one back for Pune but he was foiled by Santosh Kumar in a one-on-one situation after winning the ball just outside the 25 yard line in the fourth quarter. Due to faulty stopping in the set piece routines by his colleagues, eight goal scorer Gurpreet could not get on the scoreboard though he did have a hand in his side’s consolation goal.

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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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