Hockey crown for Punjab

Jharkhand go down in final; Haryana beat hosts for womens title

Haryana women’s hockey team celebrate after beating hosts Jharkhand in the hockey final. PTI

In a match that bordered on the ordinary for most parts and picked up life only after the hour mark, Ravi Pal stroked home through a chancy deflection while Sarvanjit Singh scored a classy goal to script a grinding 2-0 victory at the astro-turf hockey stadium.
It was double disappointment for Jharkhand after the hosts lost 1-3 to Haryana in the preceding women’s final clash earlier in the afternoon.

Teams generally tend to walk the cautious path in title deciders, relying more on strategies to counter the opposition. However, the quality expected in a final was missing between Punjab and Jharkhand, the duo littering the pitch with plenty of loose passes.

Despite being egged on continuously by an unrelentingly vociferous crowd who had thronged the 6000-capacity stadium well in advance, both teams failed to produce any spunk. Neither created any move of real danger, wishing to stay on the defensive and knock the ball around hopelessly.

Sadly, barring Jharkhand’s medio Horo Belsezer, there wasn’t any player who seemed like changing the tempo of the match that rarely kicked into the second gear. The ball kept hovering around the midfield, turning it into a dull and sordid affair despite the presence of some India internationals.

The only time the scoreboard looked like being disturbed was when Punjab’s Akashdeep Singh stole the ball from the edge of the circle and dribbled past two defenders before striking a shot towards goal in the 10th minute. His powerful strike, though, was kept out wonderfully by goalkeeper Dinesh Ekka.

Post that, the match took the ordinary path as both teams went in goalless at half-time, much to the patriotic gathering’s displeasure.

The second half too started slowly with neither willing to take the risk in going for a goal.
Showing a bit of promise, Punjab then rode on a moment of luck to hit the front in the 55th minute. Gurpreet Singh sold a dummy from a penalty corner to Gurvinder Singh Chandi, whose shot was blocked by the brilliant custodian Ekka. To his dismay, the ball fell straight to Gurpreet, the medio’s tame shot deflected by Ravi Pal with the ball ballooning tamely into the goal.

The goal ignited the spark as Jharkhand finally sharpened their focus in search of the equaliser. With Jharkhand throwing men on the attack, Punjab had a chance to break on the counter and they sealed victory with a moment of magic in the 64th minute.

Sarvanjit dribbled from the extreme left, doing a 1-2 past three bamboozled defenders before calmly tapping it home to send the stadium into complete silence.

Results (all final): Men: Punjab: 2 (Ravi Pal Singh 55th, Sarvanjit Singh 64th) bt Jharkhand: 0.
Women: Haryana: 3 (Joydeep Kaur 2nd, Surinder Kaur 4th, 51st) bt Jharkhand: 1 (Baa Kanti 45th).

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