Didar strikes gold against Shers

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  1. steve

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    By Dev S Sukumar

    CHENNAI - A 'golden goal' from Didar Singh in the 9th minute of extra time helped Hyderabad Sultans surprise Sher-e-Jalandhar 1-0 in the Premier Hockey League at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Thursday.

    Didar beat goal-keeper Kamaldeep Singh and the onrushing defenders with a drag flick that kept low and slammed into the boards. The goal ended the contest as it was in the second half of extra time.

    The victory came as poetic justice to Sultans' coach Mukesh Kumar, who could not conceal his anger at the umpiring. "Ultimately, hard work triumphs," he said philosophically. "But we are upset with the umpiring. There were 13 players against us today."

    Mukesh's disapprobation was due to a penalty corner that the Shers earned late in the first half of extra time, which would have sealed a win for them if they had converted. The Sultans protested bitterly, requesting for a referral to the video umpire, but neither of the on-field umpires budged. The Shers failed to convert the penalty corner, but the Sultans were still seething at the end of the game.

    The match, for the most part, was a fast-paced encounter but neither team could stamp their domination. The Shers went in as favourites but the Sultans put up a surprisingly tough resistance, with Johnson Ekka and Lazarus Barla in defence effectively shutting out the dangerous Gagan Ajit Singh and Don Prins.

    But with Baljit Singh Dhillon and Tejbir Singh working tirelessly in midfield, the Shers were always in with a sniff. Dhillon had a spectacular shot at goal in the 34 th minute, being put in possession in the striking circle by Baljit Saini, but his reverse hit was palmed away by custodian Devesh Chauhan.

    Chauhan, in fact, earned the 'Lion of the Match' for the several saves he came up with, including one off Kanwalpreet's hit early in the match, and then two consecutive shots from Parminder Singh in front of goal.

    While the Shers kept nipping at their opponents' goal, the Sultans' failed to reverse the pressure largely because both Tariq Aziz and Shakeel Abassi, their star forwards, were heavily marked. Aziz plowed a lonely furrow; Abassi had a few good runs down the left, but the Sultans' support to the duo was inadequate. It was only much later, with Vikram Pillay and Johnson Ekka moving up from their defensive roles, that the Sultans' attack gained momentum.

    The Shers had their clearest chance when Tejbir, unmarked in front of the goal, received the ball off a goalmouth scramble. Tejbir connected well but custodian Devesh Chauhan was equal to the task, deflecting the goal-bound shot and keeping the Sultans in the hunt.

    The Sultans came up with two fine moves on the hour. Aziz and Abassi wove a beautifully-orchestrated move to split the defence, and Abassi earned a penalty corner, but the chance was wasted; five minutes later Sardara Singh put Aziz in possession in front of the goal; Aziz's firm push beat the goal-keeper but Kanwalpreet stopped the ball short of the goal-line.

    The pace picked up in the last quarter and extra time. Finally, the Shers forced two penalty corners in succession early in the second half of extra time. The first was saved, but Didar made no mistake with the second.

    Sultans have five points from five matches, while Shers have 11 from the same number of matches.

    The matches will resume on January 31 with an encounter between Maratha Warriors and Chennai Veerans.
     

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