Playing to a plan Odisha once again asserted their supremacy over Punjab beating them 2-1 to win the gold and title of boys’ hockey competition of the Khelo India School Games at Dhyan Chand National Stadium, New Delhi on Thursday.
Earlier, in a match for bronze and third place Chandigarh Boys routed Uttar Pradesh 5-1.
In the morning, a goal in the dying moments of the match by Anu helped Haryana pip Jharkhand 2-1 in the girls’ hockey final. It was Jharkhand, who struck first and led 1-0 at half time, but Haryana girls struck back later striking twice in the second half.
Punjab won the girls’ third place match after surviving put it across Chandigarh 5-4 to claim the bronze.
The Odisha boys, who had beaten Punjab 3-0 in the league, once again dominated the final proving that their previous victory over their rivals was no fluke. In fact, the goal line does not do justice to the winners who should have won by much higher margin.
Odisha boys showed no sign of fatigue after having played a grueling semi-final against Uttar Pradesh while Punjab who had whipped Chandigarh in the other semi-final had a tired look.
The fast-moving Odisha boys started attacking the Punjab citadel from the very start giving their rivals no time to settle down.
Surprisingly despite having upper hand for most of the time, Odisha earned a breakthrough only a minute before the interval with Sushil Dhanwar scoring off a penalty corner.
Punjab tried to make their presence felt by launching furious attacks as the second session opened but Odisha not only foiled their efforts but riding on a counter attack they increased the lead in the 41st minute through striker Sudeep Chirmako to make it 2-0.
Stunned by this reverse Punjab changed tactics and started making moves from the flanks.
Odisha also re-grouped team as they strengthened their defence while in front Sandeep, Samir Ekka and Sushant Toppo made intrusive moves.
Midway through this half Odisha again regained the control of mid-field but this time the strikers turned out to be poor marksmen. Just before the final whistle Punjab scored a consolation goal through Surdarshan Singh.
Odisha coach Sanji Kerketta was elated with his team’s performance. “We played better hockey throughout. We played to a plan in the final. The boys were not overawed by the occasion,” he said.
Punjab coach Rupinder Singh said that his boys gave their best but added, “Only one team wins and Odisha won.”
For the third place Chandigrah trounced Uttar Pradesh 5-1 after leading 2-1 at halftime. For the winners Arshdeep Singh, Sahibjeet Singh (two each) and Harpanthpreet Singh (one) scored. Ali Akhtar scored the only goal for the losers.
In the morning, the Haryana – Jharkhand Girls final turned out to be an engrossing affair as both teams played their hearts out. Yet, it was Haryana, who had the better of exchanges, though the winning margin was not a true reflection of the domination the Haryana girls enjoyed.
In the first half, the winners muffed at least three good chances, two of them being through penalty corners and one solo effort. Jharkhand, too, earned six penalty corners but failed to convert any of them.
Haryana strikers Manju and Komal spearheaded their teams charge but were unable to breach their rivals’ crowded defence. The winners were rudely rattled in the 32nd minute when Jharkhand launched a tearing counter-attack and the in-form Subhani Bhengra made no mistake off a pass from Beauty Dung Dung to make it (1-0) and that was the margin at halftime.
Eight minutes into the second half Haryana drew parity with skipper Sharmila scoring off a penalty corner 1-1). Motivated by this equaliser, the winners went flat out on the offensive.
Having taken control of the mid field, Haryana forwards attacked from all sides, yet the goal eluded them. Manju and Komal Jyoti made solo attempts only to be foiled by the rival defenders.
As time ticked away and the possibility of penalty shootout loomed large, Haryana struck through Anu who intercepted a rebound and slammed the ball home to make it 2-1 giving no chance to Jharkhand.
Haryana’s coach Nitin Sabharwal said that his players played well, but added, “We should have won with much higher margin. We had beaten Jharkhand earlier, were aware of their tactics and game plan and we planned our strategy accordingly which worked well.”
Jharkhand team manager Pradeep Mirdha opined, “My girls played good but could not convert the chances that came their way.”
In the match for bronze medal, three goals by Simranjeet Kaur enabled Punjab quell Chandigarh’s second half upsurge.
Punjab led 2-1 at halftime. Apart from Simranjeet (3), the other goal scorers were Baljeet Kaur and Mitali (I each). For Chandigarh Sonu (2), Barkha and Monu were the scorers.