Pro Kabaddi League 2018: U Mumba and Puneri Paltan both look to do better after thrilling tie
The first 'Maharashtra Derby' of the 2018 Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) ended in a thrilling draw between the Puneri Paltan and U Mumba. After the home team, Tamil Thalaivas had kick-started season six in style earlier in the evening with a convincing win, the fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai were treated to an exciting back-and-forth contest that ended 32-32 in the end.
The contest was close from the get-go with neither team able to establish a lead of more than three points on average. The biggest lead of the night was four points which U Mumba enjoyed twice. As the teams continually traded points the game went all the way down to the wire.
Mumba took a 2-point lead into the final minute after capturing Nitin Tomar during a raid and looked like they would take the contest. And after an empty raid, Mumba captain Fazel Atrachali sacrificed himself easily to gift a point and hand the raiding turn back to his team. But Pune one-upped him by holding a high line ahead of the balk line to force Mumba's hands and ended up getting a successful tackle to tie the game.
After the game, Mumba captain Atrachali said he was disappointed at having let the game slip. "A bit disappointed because it was a close match. 39th minute we were winning, so it wasn't good to tie", said the Iranian.
He added: "But it's the very first match, our raiders are not that experienced. They will learn from it and it won't happen again."
One of those raiders was Siddharth Desai, a 26-year-old with a towering presence who was making his PKL debut. Desai had 14 raid points on the night and made quite the impression, but he was also the one who got captured in Mumba's final raid which helped Pune tie the game.
"We played so well, but in the end we failed to get the win. It was a great experience for me to play my first PKL game, but I'm not satisfied because we lost the lead in the end", said the newcomer when asked about his big night.
Pune captain Girish Ernak meanwhile felt content at having snatched the tie at the end while admitting that his side can play much better particularly on the defensive end.
"Since it was the first match, I think the players felt some pressure. Our defence was not good today, we fumbled a lot. But our offense was good and that helped", said the Pune skipper.
Nitin Tomar led the way for Pune's offense with 15 raid points and Paltan coach Ashan Kumar had much praise for him calling him "the best raider in India."
"Nitin kept bringing us points today. He was very, very good. As a result there was no issue in raiding and no pressure was put on the other raiders", said Kumar.
While the Pune side failed to contain the new Mumba raider Desai, Kumar felt it was not because they had not planned for him.
"We had a strategy for him (Siddharth Desai). However, a little bit of coordination was missing from our end. He hurt us today as a result. Our players will learn from this and it will be a good lesson for them", Kumar added.
Both the Pune captain and coach also spoke about the action in that tense final minute.
"We had discussed it in the timeout", said Kumar referring to the decision to stand ahead of the baulk line. "I had told the team that we had to take that risk. Once we saw Fazel give the easy point we had to go for it."
Ernak added: "Even if we weren't successful with that move, we would have lost by less than seven points which would have given us at least one point. That's why we went for that risky move."
The Paltan don't have much time to rest as they play their second game on Monday against Haryana Steelers. U Mumba, on the other hand, have a couple of days rest before they return to action against the Jaipur Pink Panthers on Wednesday.