Hockey Nationals: Karnataka have to raise their game against Punjab

Star-studded Karnataka relied on drag flicker V.R.Raghunath's brilliance to pip Air India 2-1 in their quarter-final.

Punjab, who crushed Bihar 9-0, will have to find a way to stop Raghunath, who has converted nine penalty corners and is the joint top scorer with Haryana's Sandeep Singh with 10 goals each.

In the other semi-final, Jharkhand will face a strong Haryana side, which boasts of India internationals Sandeep and defender Sardar Singh.

Sandeep played a crucial role in winning the quarter-final via a golden goal as Haryana overcame a late fight from a young Orissa side to win 3-2.

Haryana had to blame themselves for stretching the match into the extra time as they could convert only two of the nine penalty corners they got. Sandeep, who has converted eight short-corners, was rusty Thursday with his first few drag flicks while some other went begging due to casual push.

"We cannot afford to concede too many penalty corners. They have some good players and we have to be at the top of our game," Jharkhand coach Manohar Topno told IANS.
"Our boys need to produce the game that we played to beat the Services in the league stage," said the Olympian.

Karnataka coach B.J.Kariappa also knows that they have to put up a far better show than what they did against Air India.

"We did mistakes in basics like receiving the ball, the players were slipping on the turf. We also were not able to finish the moves. We have to tighten our game in all aspects."
The forwards Prabhjot Singh and Deepak Thakur were unimpressive and will have to pull up their socks.

Goalkeeper Bharat Chetri, however, played a major role in the victory as he made some good saves. "Chetri kept us in the game. We were defensive in the first half and later we changed the strategy in the second half," said Ragunath.

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