Bangalore, April 1 (IANS) An aggressive Sher-E-Punjab punished an errant Karnataka Lions 4-1 en route to the final of the inaugural Bridgestone World Series Hockey competition here Sunday.
The score-line was not fully indicative of Punjab's dominance marked by goals from Mathew Hotchkis (18), Karamjit Singh (40), Harpreet Singh (65) and Prabhjot Singh (68). The margin would have been greater had Hotckis converted a penalty stroke.
Naveen Kumar (11) was the lone scorer for the Lions whose forward line was rather toothless and lacked the dash to convert the circle penetrations into goals in contrast to Punjab whose forwards were sharper and quicker on the ball.
Punjab's supremacy was far more in evidence in the latter part of the semi-final game when they virtually pitched camp in the rival half and could have won by a bigger margin but for the Hotchkis miss and a disallowed goal by Prabhjot Singh.
The first-half witnessed hectic action marked by a great deal of urgency, but not much by way of constructive hockey. The ball swung from end to end at appreciable pace, but at the finish, the rival forwards were guilty of unforgiveable errors.
With both teams rather slack in the midfield, there was plenty of space available to put together moves quite a few of which should have resulted in goals with some imaginative play inside the circle.
The Lions' first goal came against the run of play and out of a nothing move. Innocent Kullu essayed a diagonal hit from the left into the circle. Defender Harpreet Singh intercepted, but conceded a rising deflection that went past a surprised goalkeeper Sukhjit Singh to Naveen who swatted it to the net.
At the other end, Punjab forced three penalty corners, but fumbled with two while attempting indirect conversions before Hotchkis converted a rebound off the third after goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan stopped Harpreet's direct try.
Early in the second-half, Punjab went 2-1 up when a well-positioned Karamjit Singh reverse hit to boards a through ball from Vinaya even as the Karnataka forwards showed prodigality in missing scoring chances.
In fact, the hosts were lucky that what appeared to be a legitimate goal by Punjab's Prabhjot Singh was disallowed for "back sticks" after referral though the replays did not show any infringement.
A couple of minutes later, Prabhjot had another crack at the Lions goal, but the ball struck defender Innocent Kullu on the foot. However, Chauhan blocked the resultant penalty stroke by Hotchkis to keep the Lions afloat.
Punjab sustained intense pressure on the Lions and though Chauhan brought off a couple of good saves, a goal seemed imminent as the visitors forced four back-to-back penalty corners and off the last, Harpreet found the net to give his team a 3-1 edge.
Prabhjot then came up with perhaps the goal of the tournament when he capped a brilliant solo run down the middle with a drive past Chauhan to the boards for the fourth goal that effectively ended Karnataka's challenge that even otherwise did not measure up to the occasion.
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