Chaitra heroics spur Karnataka into semis

 In control: Karnataka’s Chaitra (second from left) shoots past Delhi’s Vijaya during their IHF Senior Nationals quarterfinal match on Sunday. DH photoMidfielder Chaitra (8th, 11th, 30th, 37th) led the assault with four goals, striker Saira Banu (9th, 24th) scored a brace while Sana (25th) and Kulsimbi (44th) struck one apiece each as the youthful hosts rolled over Delhi with an impressive first-half display at the KSHA stadium.

The S Prema-led side will lock horns with Bhopal, who rode on Balvinder Mehra’s last-gasp winner to knockout PEPSU 1-0 in the other quarterfinal, in the last-four battle on Wednesday.

Playing their first match of the competition after receiving two walkovers, Karnataka kick-started their campaign with zest. Summoning all their unused energy, the hosts caught Delhi unawares with their pace, passing and craft. There was hardly any trace of rust due to lack of match practice; the State girls instead arrived with a definite plan and executed it in style.

Solid in all departments of the game, the hosts kept scoring at will, creating opportunities with some wonderful passing. While Muthamma was brilliant on the right flank, setting up three goals with fine dribbles, Chaitra complemented her wonderfully, showing good presence of mind and positioning in converting two of them.

Chasing shadows for nearly three quarters of the match, Delhi hardly found an answer to Karnataka’s charge, getting a breather only towards the end as the hosts slackened after opening up a massive 8-0 lead. Perhaps, the complacency in the final 20 minutes of the match that allowed Delhi to restore some pride by scoring two goals was the only blip in an otherwise commanding performance from Karnataka.

Results (both quarterfinals): Karnataka: 8 (Chaitra 8th, 11th, 30th, 37th, Saira Banu 9th, 24th, Sana 25th, Kulsumbi 44th) bt Delhi: 2 (Monisha Verma 52nd, Preeti Hooda 65th); Bhopal: 1 (Balvinder Mehra 69th) bt PEPSU: 0.

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