Karnataka outplayed Uttar Pradesh 3-1 to be crowned champions for the first time in the 64th IHF National hockey championship for the Rangaswamy Cup at the KSHA stadium on Thursday.
The hosts played their heart out with skipper Deepak Bijawad (38th, 57th) doing the star turn converting two penalty corners in the second half to seal the victory after Umesh put Karnataka ahead in the third minute. Imran Khan had given the visitors a glimmer of hope with a 10th minute goal but that was not enough to stop Karnataka from claiming their maiden title, their best performance since the erstwhile Mysore State finished runners up to Railways in Udhagamandalam in 1968. Karnataka coach Ramesh Parameshwaran was ecstatic after the team’s win. “It’s a dream come true for me. This is a unique achievement (winning for the first time), I could not win this as a player so it feels good,’’ he added. Karnataka brought their top game to the fore in the biggest night of the competition. The home team, who were held 3-3 by UP in the league stage, stunned the opposition defence even before they could settle down as Umesh delivered the opening blow, a scorcher from the left off a Bijju Yirkal pass in the third minute.
However, UP equalised much against the run of play in the 10th minute through their workhorse Imran. The lanky forward shot past Karnataka custodian Mahan Gowda with a solo effort through the right. Bijawad, who has been in prolific form in the tourney, came into his own in the second half and that ensured UP were taken out of the game.
The defender started the match-winning process with a 38th minute short corner execution giving UP custodian Ashish Mishra no chance. Bijawad’s second penalty corner was flawless as the ball sailed and found its place in the top left corner of the goal as the victory bells rang in the Karnataka camp. In the closing stages, there was some tension when Karnataka’s NS Rajesh accidentally hit a UP player in the abdomen during the play and an altercation ensued between the two sides which was later defused by the umpires and players from both sides. KSHA has awarded Rs 1 lakh to the Karnataka team while IHF chairman RK Shetty and LT Nanwani, in their personal capacity, also presented the same amount to the hosts, and Rs 50,000 to the losing UP team. KSHA President Venu Uthappa gifted each member of the Karnataka team a Titan watch while office-bearer NS Basavaraj has awarded Rs 25,000. Earlier, Mumbai edged past Punjab 5-4 in a shoot-out to take the third place after being tied 2-2 at full time. Results (Final): Karnataka: 3 (Umesh KR 3rd, Deepak Bijawad 38th, 57th) bt UP: 1 (Imran Khan 10th). Third place play-off: Mumbai: 2 (Upendra Pillay 12th, Vikram Singh 47th) bt Punjab: 2 (Sanjeev Kumar 23rd, 35th). Penalty shoot-out: Mumbai 5; Punjab 4. Individual awards: Best goalkeeper: Sudhir Dixit (Mumbai). Best defender: Deepak Bijawad (Karnataka). Best half-back: Nagasrinu Y (Karnataka). Best forward: Satwinder Singh (Punjab). Top goalscorer: Victo Singh (Mumbai). Player of the championship: Diwakar Ram (UP).