The low-profile Steelers are beginning to show their mettle. The Dilip Tirkey-led side came here as pool leaders and on Tuesday ensured they stayed on top, crushing bottom-placed Hyderabad Sultans 2-0 in their opening match of the second leg of the Premier Hockey League.
The game picked up pace only in the second half, but the way the Steelers were playing, it was only a matter of time before they took lead. The first opportunity came in the eighth minute when Argentine import Mario Almada — who arrived only on Monday afternoon as replacement for Dutch Tjeerd Steller — hit the ball straight to the Sultans goalkeeper Devesh Chauhan.
For the first two quarters, the game was restricted to the midfield. The Steelers built attacks from both flanks, initiated mainly by Almada, but failed to convert the half-chances.
The third quarter changed equations completely. The Steelers appeared bent on producing a result in regulation time, and their efforts paid off. Damandeep Singh put them ahead, deflecting an indirect penalty-corner shot by Dilip in the 42nd minute. Daman, the find of the tournament so far, was in the thick of action, creating openings and making solo efforts.
Three minutes on, the Sultans finally got a penalty-corner, but Saranjeet Singh's shot was saved by Salman Akbar. A quick counter-attack by the Steelers saw Adnan Zakir sending a cross to Bruno Hadrian on the left, and the youngster made no mistake in slotting the ball home. The goal was scored in just three quick passes, something India would do well to replicate at the international level.