Jan 04: Defending champions Orissa Steelers completed the semifinal line-up, grabbing the only place left, after handing out a 2-0 drubbing to local favourites Sher-e-Jallandhar in the last league encounter of the 4th Premier Hockey League at the Sector 42 Hockey Stadium played here on Thursday.
Much to their delight the Steelers needed a 2-0 margin to qualify for semis, while their counterpart Shers needed a four-goal margin victory to make the grade for semifinals.
The Steelers sealed their place with consummate ease and will now meet Bangalore Lions in the semi-final, while Hyderabad Sultans, who were pushed to the fourth spot on the table on goal difference, will take on local favourites Chandigarh Dynamos on Saturday.
Local giants Shers started the proceedings on a fast note, attacking with aggression but it lasted only for a few minutes as they dished out dull, drab and insipid stuff thereafter.
Star striker Gagan Ajit Singh and Jarnail Singh were seen at the upfront but that too in patches. They lacked support from the teammates and they were not at their best as the midfield and their other forwards failed to feed the ball to Gagan.
On the other hand Orissa played to their plan and their defence stood like a wall with Dilip Tirkey and Kim Chul thwarting the entire rival moves. William Xalco ably supported them and the midfield played a pivotal role both in the attack and the defence, where Birendra Lakra was prominent.
Orissa shot ahead in the 22nd minute through a stunning field goal by Ignace Tirkey. The gen of a goal came as Orissa began a move after a mispass by the Shers got trapped in in the midfield. Ajitesh Rai got possession and gave a short pass to Roshan Minz, who charged down in the middle to dodge past two Shers' players and sent a quick through ball to Ignace on the left of the circle.
Ignace controlled the ball on the run and saw the advancing rival custodian Salman Akbar of Pakistan. He entered the circle and came up with a stinging reverse hit before Salman could do any damage and the ball settled in the net.
From thereon, Orissa players controlled the pace of the game and went into a defensive mode with their midfield falling back to assist the defence.
In the 44th minute, Steelers got another chance when Jugraj Singh of Shers, who played in the midfield, made a silly mistake. He failed to trap a long ball from rival defence and that crossed the sidelines near the corner, providing a long corner for Orissa, which yielded in a goal to make the scoreline 2-0.
Eliazer Lakra pushed the hit to Roshan. Roshan tried to enter the circle but with two Shers defenders got after him, he sent the ball to an unmarked Birendra Lakra outside the circle on the right. Birendra stepped in and took a crack at the goal and the ball kissed the pads of the rival custodian before entering the goal.
Later, all the Shers could do was earning two short-corners and both went abegging with Rupinder Pal and Kanwalpreet failing to find the net. Birender Lakra was later declared man of the match.
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