Uttar Pradesh demolished Manipur 19-2 to storm into the final of the 64th IHF National hockey championship for the Rangaswamy Cup at the KSHA stadium on Wednesday.
UP, thus, overhauled Mumbai’s goal difference of +21 by five goals, finishing with a superior goal difference of +26 after being tied on 10 points with the defending champions as a result of their big win over Manipur.
The Ranjeet Singh-coached side will now face Karnataka, league leaders with 11 points, in the summit clash on Thursday. Imran (25th, 28th, 30th, 32nd, 54th, 65th), Abhishek Singh (12th, 17th, 18th), Prem Kumar (10th, 16th, 23rd, 26th, 52nd), Diwakar Ram (1st, 21st), Pramod Kumar (40th, 42nd) and Farogh Alvi (34th) were the goalscorers for UP.
UP imposed themselves over their hapless opponents in the first half with a goalfest. Skipper Ram (2nd) got the ball rolling with the opening goal before Prem doubled the lead in the 10th minute with a good finish. Manipur reduced the deficit in the 11th minute through N Bhaskar but that’s all they could muster.
UP on the other hand continued to have their way. Abhishek and Imran rattled the Manipur defence with the former slamming well-executed goals in the 17th and 18th minutes before a penalty corner conversion in the 12th minute. Ram was spot on with his drag-flick for UP’s seventh goal in the 21st minute and two minutes later Prem tricked a couple of Manipuri defenders to make it 8-1.
Thereafter, Imran took over as the centre forward first sounded the board with a splendid goal in the 25th minute. A goal from Prem was followed by three brilliant solo efforts from Imran through the right with Alvi and Shashikant Yadav supporting through the flanks. Alvi made it 14-1 at half-time with a goal in the 34th minute.
Pramod joined the party after the break with a short corner conversion in the 40th minute and a close-in goal in the 42nd. S Bidyakumar gave a moment of cheer for Manipur amidst all despair with a penalty corner conversion. Prem and Imran closed out the match with three goals as UP sealed their place in the final.
In the second match, Punjab beat Jharkhand 6-0 to end with nine points and will take on Mumbai in the third-place play-off match before the final.
Results: UP: 19 (Imran Khan 25th, 28th, 32nd, 54th, 65th, Abhishek Singh 12th, 17th, 18th, Prem Kumar 10th, 16th, 23rd, 26th, 52nd, Diwakar Ram 1st, 21st, Pramod Kumar 40th, 42nd, Farogh Alvi 34th) bt Manipur: 2 (N Bhaskar 11th, S Bidyakumar 46th); Punjab: 6 (Balwinder Singh 20th, 41st , Satwinder Singh 36th, 56th, Sanjeev Kumar 44th, 57th) bt Jharkhand: 0.
Thursday’s matches: Punjab vs Jharkhand (4 pm); Karnataka vs UP (6 pm).