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World Series Hockey -- Thakur guides Shers to tough win

753   //    21 Mar 2012, 20:56 IST


An opportunistic strike by spearhead Deepak Thakur in the fourth quarter clinched a narrow 2-1 victory for table toppers Sher-E-Punjab against a superior Mumbai Marines in a 10th round clash of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the Surjit Singh Stadium this evening.

Strapping Bikramjit Singh put the local lions ahead from Punjab’s first penalty corner in the 10th minute while the visitors drew level through Hariprasad in the 42nd minute. Thakur’s match winner in the 56th minute came after Prabhjot Singh had stolen the ball from the Mumbai defenders and worked his way into the circle before an unfortunate  deflection by defender Clyde Abrahams allowed him to dispatch the ball into the target. The former India right winger incidentally is the leading field goal scorer with 10 goals after his latest effort.

The hosts also squandered a penalty stroke in the third quarter, the culprit being Harpreet Singh whose mediocre attempt was easily read by Adrian D’Souza. The former India custodian again put his best foot forward today by bringing off numerous saves but his side could not take full advantage of his good work.

The Shers extend their lead at the top to 22 points and look assured of a place in the semis while the Marines continue to languish in seventh position with 10 points and must win all their remaining games if they hope to make the cut. Incidentally, the Marines’ Aussie coach with German connections, Andrew Meredith, hasn’t won a game in five outings since he has returned to take charge.

Mumbai dished out a very methodical display today, the defence marshalled by the lion hearted Ajmer Singh keeping things tight at the back, the midfielders linking up well with the attackers though the latter could not create too many openings once they reached the opposing 25 yard line as the Punjab defenders were also up to it.

On the other hand, Punjab were more incisive overall and Adrian D’Souza had to pull off a brilliant save off a tomahawk shot by returning skipper Prabhjot Singh towards the end of the first session.  Thakur could have scored a sensational goal in the second quarter when he collected a through pass from his skipper at full throttle and made a diving attempt with his reverse stick that beat an onrushing D’Souza and struck the near post before the ball was cleared. Had it gone in, it would have been in the running for the goal of the tournament!

Mumbai’s first chance came early in the game but Matthew Hotchkis saved on the line from Devinder Walmiki’s first penalty corner attempt in the fourth minute. Joga Singh then muffed a good opportunity in the third quarter when he pushed into the side netting from close though a couple of his colleagues were lurking at the goalmouth. Ultimately the lack of firepower hit Mumbai hard.
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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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