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World Series Hockey - Ten-strong Lions edge past Wizards

668   //    24 Mar 2012, 23:05 IST

Ten strong Karnataka Lions scraped past Delhi Wizards 3-1 in a edge-of-the-seat thriller of a match of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey in Bangalore tonight.

Karnataka went into a 2-0 lead at the crossover through goals by Ravipal Singh and Jarnail Singh before the visitors pulled one back at the end of the third quarter through Rajpal Singh when the hosts were reduced to nine men on the pitch. But with the Wizards pressing intensely for the equalizer, Len Aiyappa came up with an amazing penalty corner indirect conversion via a slap shot to settle the issue in the 66th minute.

Arjun Halappa was suspended for this match and Zeeshan Ashraf wore the armband for the Lions tonight but the ageing Coorgi leader was not missed as his young cubs like the aggressive Ravipal, the tireless Jarnail and the outstanding Arjun Antil stepped up to the plate. Their veteran defenders and goalkeeper also rose to the occasion, a truly team effort.

The match started at a frenetic pace and the goalkeepers at both ends, Devesh Chauhan for the Lions and Kamaldeep Singh for the Wizards, were called upon to put their best foot forward in order to keep their respective sides in contention. Kamaldeep was able to thwart the deadly Aiyappa twice, but Ravipal was at the right place to smash the angular rebound in from the drag flick expert’s second attempt and give the kings of the jungle a 1-0 lead.

The hosts made it 2-0 soon in the 18th minute from a good counter attack on the right flank when Antil fed Jarnail at the far post and the latter made no mistake.

Karnataka have been improving with every game and Jude Felix’s lads played with a lot of cohesiveness and fluidity, conjuring up fluent moves across the length of the Karnataka State Hockey Association Stadium and were fully deserving of their third victory on the trot on their home turf.

Delhi had an equal share of the proceedings but they frittered their advantage away in speedy attacks that lost their sting eventually. Only late in the day did they try to settle down and play a methodical game. They got a fortuitous equalizer through Rajpal Singh in the 52nd minute whose push across the goalmouth was deflected into the cage by an unlucky Abhishek Singh. The same defender however made a goalline save a minute later to deny Delhi a look in.

The Wizards incidentally got their goal when the Lions were down to nine men late in a scrappy third quarter when both sides seemed to have lost their bearings as Jarnail was  flashed the red card for retaliation and Ravipal saw green for a minor infringement.

For a team that was languishing at the bottom, the Lions now move up to third spot with 18 points from 12 games. The Wizards, who have played one game less, are in seventh position with 13 points and are fighting a lost cause now.

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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