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World Series Hockey -- Pune rally to hold Punjab lions

In a stirring fightback, Pune Strykers rallied to hold fancied Sher-E-Punjab and share six goals in a third round clash of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the Surjeet Singh Hockey Stadium in Jalandhar tonight.

As table toppers after two rounds, the Punjab Shers thought they were the proverbial ‘kings’ of the WSH jungle. More so after they were sitting on a comfortable 2-0 lead before half-time. But the visitors, who were also undefeated in two outings, succeeded in bearding the lions in their own den and walked away with a moral victory despite the tied scoreline, a first in the tournament so far.

Jalandhar and Pune both have seven points from two wins and a tie but the former continue to maintain pole position with a better goal difference.

Former India right winger Deepak Thakur showed there is still fight in his ageing frame as he slammed two field goals in the 5th and 33rd minutes to put his side in the driver’s seat at half-time after missing a few opportunities in between.

Pune regrouped slowly but once they found their feet, they started dictating the run of play and put the hosts on the backfoot. Tournament top scorer Gurpreet Singh converted the first penalty corners that the Deccan side earned in the third quarter to take his tally to seven goals in the tournament.

However, skipper Prabhjot Singh, who had played provider earlier, put himself on the scorer’s sheet in the 54th minute with a rasping shot that left the Pune goalkeeper flat footed and made it 3-1.

Pune, aided by the runs of the unstoppable Mario Almada and the gangling Vikas Pillay, then went all out and rattled the Jalandhar defence with their relentless pressure, forcing four more penalty corners on the trot. They justifiably drew level through their enterprising forward Bikash Toppo who scored twice in the space of five minutes (60th and 65th minutes) to even the scoreline.

The match winner continued to elude both sides and in the end, despite the tied result, it was a thriller all the way and the game of hockey was the winner.

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