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World Series Hockey – Warsi, the Chennai Wizard!

908   //    05 Mar 2012, 23:06 IST

Delhi were supposed to be the Wizards on their home turf but the Chennai Cheetahs brought their own version of ‘Merlin the Magician’ to the party in Syed Imran Warsi tonight. The Pakistani drag flicker slammed in two goals to help the visitors down the hosts 5-2 in a tense and tactical clash and take his tournament tally to a magnificent seven.

Foreign flavour was supposed to add glamour to this domestic tournament and it certainly has done so, more so tonight as the imports fired in five of the seven goals scored in this third round encounter of the Bridgestone World Series Hockey at the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi.

But it was the hard working Aussie Olympic gold medalist, Brent Livermore, wearing his captain’s arm band on his leg, who played a leading role in fashioning the Cheetah victory by dictating the trend of play with his great work ethic and canny play making ability.

Chennai were by far the better side and well worth the victory in this tight, defence dominated game where the teams pulled their punches rather than throwing them with gusto in the initial stages. The only chance in the first quarter fell to Vikram Pillay of the Cheetahs in the 4th minute but he skied his shot much like a misfiring football striker.

This was the second victory for the Jose Brasa coached visitors who were playing their third consecutive away match while it was the second defeat on the trot for the red shirted Wizards who had former India spearhead and 1992 Olympian Darryl D’Souza deputizing for the absent Dutch coaching legend Roelant Oltmans.

Gangling German forward Philip Sunkel slotted two lovely goals for the losers, displaying impeccable finishing skills, in the 31st and 34th minutes to put the hosts on top. But Aussie medio Joseph Reardon reduced the margin at the stroke of half time with a fierce reverse hit on the run of play after collecting a long ball from Vikas Sharma.

Warsi then changed the complexion of the game with two quick strikes from set pieces in the 47th and 53rd minutes. Adam Sinclair (57th) and Sandeep Antil (61st minute) completed the final rites and secured full points for the visitors.

Long maned Pakistani forward, Shakeel Abassi, made a few nice runs for the home side and skipper Rajpal Singh too tried to give the capital inhabitants the momentum without positive impact though. Delhi should however be thankful to goalkeeper Kamaldeep Singh who pulled off a few crucial saves, otherwise, the locals could have lost by a bigger margin.

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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