Hockey: Karnataka Beat Punjab 2-1, to Face Haryana in Final

By Avishek Roy

Bhopal, June 18 (IANS) Karnataka continued their brilliant run in the National Hockey Championship by entering the final, edging past Punjab 2-1 here Saturday.

Karnataka will face Haryana in the final. Haryana saw off Jharkhand 7-6 in the other semifinal that was decided on penalty strokes.

Both teams were locked 1-1 after the regulation time and the extra time too did not fetch any result. Karamjit Singh gave Haryana the lead in the 45th minute before Bikesh Toppo equalised nine minutes later, taking the match to extra time.

Earlier, Karnataka's V.R. Raghunath, on whom the team depended so heavily, gave his team the right start converting a penalty corner in the 10th minute as a sizeable hockey-loving crowd turned up to witness the absorbing game at the Aishbagh Stadium here.

Punjab reduced the margin through Dharamvir Sigh in the 36th minute and ten minutes later Hari Prasad struck what proved to be the winner for Karnataka.

Once in the lead, the team from down south, which beat a star-studded Air India in the quarter-final Thursday, made sure they protected their lead by crowding out Punjab from the striking zone.

Karnataka were clearly the better side Saturday evening and showed better hockey skills in raising their game at a critical time. They were unimpressive in their quarter-final game, but against Punjab they had planned it all well.

Both teams played fast-paced and refreshing hockey. There were skilfull moves from both ends, but their finishing was not in tune with their approach work.

Prabhjot Singh showed his dribbling skills as he raced past the Punjab defence. Not to be left behind, Punjab too showed a flair for attack.

After Punjab failed to capitalise on a penalty corner right at the start, Raghunath scored with a lethal dragflick strike on a Deepak Thakur push. That took the 25-year-old to the top of the goalscorers' list with 11 goals, 10 of these coming from the penalty corners.

Punjab goofed up at the top of the circle. Ravi Pal once had the clear sight of the goal but his attempt was feeble.

Karnakata were 1-0 up at the break.

Punjab stepped up the attack in the second half and Dharamvir was on target soon on resumption.
Karnataka moved well through the flanks and one of those runs saw Hari Prasad latching on to a good through pass from Raghunath to slot home the winner.

"We were confident of reaching the final. We have a strong team with a good mix of seniors and juniors, and we have worked hard on our fitness," Karnataka coach B.J. Kariappa told IANS.

"We played better today. We were under bit of pressure in the second half because some cards were shown, but the boys stepped up and got the goal."

"Raghunath played well and converted the only chance that came our way."

Asked on the deficiencies if any, the coach said: "We could not convert some good chances that came our way, we have to refine our finishing."


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Title: Hockey: Karnataka Beat Punjab 2-1, to Face Haryana in Final

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