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World Series Hockey: Mariners sail past Cheetahs

658   //    06 Mar 2012, 21:19 IST


In a dramatic reversal of fortunes, Mumbai Mariners came from behind to sail past a valiant but off colour Chennai Cheetahs 4-2 in a fourth round clash of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium in the southern city tonight.

The home side, playing their first home match, against the visitors who were on their first trip outside, went into an early lead through their pony tailed drag flicker Imran Warsi in the third minute itself, the ball crashing through the pads of Adrian D’Souza. It was the Pakistani star’s eighth goal, catapulting him to the distinction of top scorer of the championship. The former India custodian was similarly beaten by Sunil Yadav (66th minute) as Chennai tried hard to changes their fortunes late in the day in this cat & mouse encounter. But it was not to be.

After Warsi’s opener the game went surprisingly downhill for the lackluster home outfit as the visitors got a grip on the proceedings. The Mariners then proceeded to turn their advantage into goals by converting three of their four penalty corners, all via different routes. The success stories were Devinder Walmiki (12th minute drag flick), Ajmer Singh (43rd, indirect variation) and Bimal Lakra (52nd, direct hit) while Anup Anthony (24th) swelled their tally with a field goal.

It was a deserving result for the Marines, who scripted their second victory and took their tally to six points while it was the second defeat for the Cheetahs who also have garnered the same aggregate. For the victors, the stand out performers were veteran Viren Rasquinha, who lent stability to the midfield, left-back Ajmer who made a few vital interceptions and the slippery Troy Sutherland upfront who posed danger with his darting runs. He was voted man of the match later.

Had they won, Chennai would have coasted to the top of the pool but Brasa’s boys did not do enough to justify a win or division of points. Perhaps, they were fatigued by all travelling they had done earlier. Chennai’s predictable tactics of looking for penalty corners to set up Warsi by randomly slapping the ball into the rival circle did not pay dividends as the Mumbai defenders were up to it. A more refined approach could have yielded greater dividends. Chennai also had a few chances in open play but Veerasamy Raja among others was not sharp enough.

Walmiki, an India junior captain in 2010 and younger brother of India player Yuvraj, is shaping up well to the responsibility of executing the penalty corner awards because the foreign drag flickers have cried off. He could have scored again from the set piece in the 29th minute, but his effort elicited a superb save from Jasbir this time around.

Mumbai earlier had a great chance to score when they were gifted the ball inside the 25 yard line, but the attack faltered and Hariprasad’s weak shot was ultimately stopped by a defender with the goalie out of his charge.

The game was disrupted just before the end of the second half when D’Souza was ordered off by German umpire Marc Knulle, as captain, apparently because Mumbai had 12 players on the field. Ultimately, it was Sashi Toppo who trooped out because Mumbai did not have a reserve keeper, a decision that did not please the dour faced Jose Brasa; and rightly so.

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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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