Pune: Yuvraj Walmiki wreaked havoc with the Air India defence scoring three goals past the defending champions as Railways chugged into the final with a 6-4 win, in the 5th Hockey India Senior Men’s National Hockey championship for ‘A’ Division at the Balewadi Hockey Ground here on Sunday.
Railways will take on Uttar Pradesh in the final on Tuesday. Uttar Pradesh defeated Gangpur, Odisha 3-0 in the second semifinal. Air India will now look to earn the podium finish when they take on Gangpur in the play-off for the third place.
Walmiki, who came into the semifinal by being top scorer for Railways with 5 goals, saved his best for this high-profile match that pitched them against Air India.
The teams tested each other for more than a quarter before Air India came alive when Gaganpreet Singh converted the second penalty corner the defending champions earned in the 17th minute against Railways.
Railways looked disjointed for most part of the first quarter, but after they went down by a goal, the team began to play cohesive hockey.
Vinod Kumar Singh moved from the left in the 28th minute before sending the ball into the scoring circle for Talwinder Singh. There were two Air India defenders crowding Talwinder, who showed great reflex to push the ball for an onrushing Malak Singh, who smashed in the equalizer past a sprawled Air India goalkeeper Adrian D’Souza.
Two minutes later, just before the technical bench blew the horn to indicate half-time, Walmiki scored his first to put Railways 2-1 up. Talwinder Singh had moved from the centre before he released the ball for Walmiki, who was lurking at an acute angle on the left. The ‘player-of-the-match’ was right on the ball hitting straight into the boards.
On resumption, Walmiki struck again as he chanced upon Air India’s defensive lapse to give Railways 3-1 lead.
Railways held on to their lead in the third quarter too making the first semifinal look a one-sided affair. But Air India added spice in the final quarter when veteran Sameer Dad reduced the lead in the 40th minute.
On the counter, Railways again increased the lead through Amit Rohidas four minutes later, but two back-to-back strikes from Vikram Pillay (45th) and Arjun Halappa (47th) brought the scores on level.
Air India gave a whiff of their class seemingly getting out of their self-imposed slumber, but Railways were not ready to give up that easily.
Rohidas, who had scored five goals so far for Railways, struck another in the 52nd minute when he converted a penalty corner before Niyaz Rahim-Walmiki combination saw Railways take the match away from Air India’s grasp.
Niyaz created the move in the 54th minute and raced into the scoring area before he sent a cross for Walmiki, who made no mistake in slotting in his eighth goal of the tournament.
UP ride of Yadav’s hat-trick
Sunil Yadav scored a hat-trick as Uttar Pradesh blanked Gangpur, Odisha, 3-0 to storm into the final against Railways.
Gangpur, which came into the National Hockey ‘A’ Division by virtue of being the winners of ‘B’ Division of the 4th edition of the National championship, completely lost out against well-prepared Uttar Pradesh.
It was as if nothing worked for the team from the Princely State of Gangpur, whose attacks were foiled without much of an effort by the Uttar Pradesh defence.
A combination of former India international Tushar Khandkar and Sunil Yadav saw Uttar Pradesh go 1-0. Khandkar took a perfect push-in and Sunil Yadav slotted into the goal.
There were a lot of exchanges, but goals were hard to come by. Yadav was again at the fore two minutes after resumption as Uttar Pradesh went 2-0 up. He scored one more before the end of the third quarter to virtually take the match away from Gangpur’s grasp.
SF1: Railways 6 (Malak Singh 28th Yuvraj Walmiki 30th, 35th, 54th, Amit Rohidas 44th, 52nd) beat Air India 4 (Gaganpreet Singh 17th, Sameer Dad 40th, Vikram Pillay 45th, Arjun Halappa 47th). HT: 2-1.
SF2: Uttar Pradesh 3 (Sunil Yadav 11th, 32nd, 44th) beat Gangpur, Odisha 0. HT: 1-0.
Tuesday’s fixtures at National ‘A’ Hockey championship:
Third place play-off: Air India v Gangpur, Odisha (1.30 pm)
Final: Railways v Uttar Pradesh (3.30 pm)
Monday is a Rest Day
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