Punjab coach Baljeet Singh Saini's worst fears came true on Saturday. Having cruised into semi-finals by beating weak opponents, Saini was worried how his players would cope up when faced with astrong outfit.
They did put up a tough fight but star-studded Karnataka absorbed the pressure to defeat the youthful Punjab team by an odd goal in three in the first semi-final of the Senior National Hockey Championship. This will be Karnataka's first final appearance after 1969.
Drag flicker VR Raghunath gave Karnataka early lead but Punjab fought back well and levelled the scores soon after the break through Dharamvir Singh. They launched some good attacks thereafter but failed to capitalise. Karnataka then sealed the issue when Hariprasad tapped the ball home off a free hit by Raghuprasad.
Haryana clinch thriller
It all boiled down to nerves and Haryana held their nerves to overcome Jharkhand 8-7 in sudden death tiebreak to scrape through to the final.
Haryana took the lead after a barren first-half but Jharkhand — clearly the better team on the turf — levelled the score and the two teams remained locked 1-1 in regulation time.
Haryana was outclassed and failed to even earn a single penalty corner while Jkharkhand bagged seven. The score remained the same even after extra-time and six penalty strokes in tiebreak before Roshan Minz's push was saved by goalkeeper Jasbir Singh. Sher Singh scored for Haryana.