For the first 35 minutes, it looked like nothing much had changed for either Bangalore Lions or Hyderabad Sultans from their respective opening games. Both teams had struggled in then and on Sunday, were again unable to create any worthwhile attacks, though the Lions established early midfield dominance to put some pressure on the rival citadel.
But once they got their act together in the second half, the defending champions looked dangerous and finally won easily 3-0 at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here, breaching the Sultans’ defence repeatedly with ease. They controlled the match and though the Hyderabad team, spearheaded by prolific Pakistan striker Shakeel Abassi, tried to fight back, their players were too erratic to create many potent moves.
Pakistan captain Rehan Butt, Dutch Sander van der Weide and drag-flicker Len Aiyappa scored for Bangalore. The Pakistani skipper, who combined well with Arjun Halappa, Hari Prasad and Tushar Khandekar in his very first match, put the Lions ahead in the 49th minute by pushing home a rebound off an indirect penalty corner.
Though Hyderabad tried to fight back, they couldn’t stitch together enough moves because of faulty transition from the midfield to forward line. Brothers Didar and Sardara Singh were off colour while right half Nitin Kumar was erratic as he messed some good moves.
Van der Weide consolidated the lead in the fourth quarter when he slammed home a rasping drive off a move created by Arjun Halappa. Halappa passed the ball to Hari who moved towards the back line and sent in a cross into the shooting circle and Sander planted it past Devesh Chauhan from the top of the circle.
Aiyappa, who shared the responsibility of drag-flicking with youngster Gurpreet Singh, finally proved successful after having three of his attempts were blocked.
He planted a low flick to the left of Chauhan to make it 3-0 for Bangalore. In fact, they could have scored at least four more goals but for their own mistakes. In the very last minute, Tushar Khandekar failed to tap the ball into an open goal.
The victory took Bangalore Lions to five points from two games, while Hyderabad are yet to score a point.
In the second match of the day, Orissa Steelers beat Chennai Veerans 2-1 to join Bangalore at the top of the table. Orissa used their strong defence to stifle Chennai. The Steelers, on paper, have the best defence with Dilip Tirkey and William Xalxo joining forces with Prabodh Tirkey and Tjeerd Steller.
They also made good use of counter-attacks against an inexperienced Chennai team that committed simple mistakes in their eagerness to score. Sunil Ekka and Dilip Tirkey scored for the Steelers while Raghunath pulled one back for the Veerans.
Bangalore Lions 3 (Rehan Butt 49, Sander van der Weide 55; Len Aiyappa 63) bt Hyderabad Sultans 0
Orissa Steelers 2 (Sunil Ekka 6, Dilip Tirkey 25) bt Chennai Veerans 1 (Raghunath 63).