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World Series Hockey -- Comets shine in southern skies

729   //    26 Mar 2012, 20:55 IST


Rock solid Chandigarh Comets doused the challenge of a disappointing Chennai Cheetahs with a convincing 3-0 victory in a 12th round match of Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in the southern coastal city tonight.

Chennai have endured a poor run at home, having won only once before, and today was no different as the Jose Brasa coached predators were found wanting in all departments of the game and have put themselves in danger of missing the cut. They remain on 16 points and in fifth position. On the other hand, Harinder Singh’s lads are on the verge of making it, maintaining their second position and taking their points tally to 22, three behind leaders Sher-E-Punjab who have already confirmed their semi-final spot.

Monday night’s must win encounter for both teams, but more so for the losers, was billed as a battle between the two best penalty corner experts in the competition. But that was not how it panned out as only Gurjinder Singh (Comets) came to the party once – he also earned his side a penalty stroke — while Imran Warsi (Cheetahs), who has notched 16 goals in the competition, was a total flop for a change.

Even as the spectators were settling down into their seats Amir Khan had the first bite of the cherry by slamming in a loose ball past Santosh Kumar in the Chennai cage in the 2nd minute. Gurjinder Singh made it 2-0 seven minutes later from the visitors’ first penalty corner to take his tournament tally to 13. The prolific Sukhwinder Singh Gabbar completed the tally from the dreaded spot in the 41st minute after Gurjinder’s drag flick was stopped by on the goalline by Vikram Pillay. It was the inspirational Canadian international’s his 10th goal of the tournament, three of which have come from penalty strokes.

The Chandigarh defence was competent to the core and kept the Cheetah attack at bay by neutralizing their dangerous spearhead Adam Sinclair and cutting off the passes from the midfield. The also completely silenced the big gun of Warsi who could only strike the crossbar once from the six odd set pieces that he took. In all, the losers forced nine PCs but could not turn any to advantage.

The new South Wales combination of Matthew Phillips and Robert Green in defence played a great game for the winners while Sher Singh, who has been in sparkling form as a schemer, also came back to blunt the edge of Warsi by his courageous and his quick running out from the defensive blocks.

Cheetahs were the better side in attack but not good enough to put it across their opponents as they should have done in a home match. The did have a few chances though as when Pillay’s push was saved by rival goalkeeper Harjot Singh in the 26th minute. But their attempts were too few and far between. The lack of firepower in the Chennai frontline was never more apparent than today when they could have played all night without scoring. And their over-dependence on Warsi proved fatal yet again as the Pakistani had an off day tonight and could not come to their rescue.
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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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