National Hockey: Punjab, Air India enter final

Pune, June 9 (IANS) Holders Punjab will take on Air India in the final of the third Hockey India senior men's National Championship after they beat Karnataka 5-2 and Haryana 7-3, respectively, here Sunday.

In the first semi-final, Air India started with Affan Yusuf scoring in the fifth minute following a splendid solo effort. Mandeep Anti equalised for Haryana in the 10th minute to raise hopes of a close match.

However, Air India struck three telling blows before half-time for a 4-1 advantage. Pune lad Vikram Pillay scored with a backhand flick in the 15th, skipper Prabodh Tirkey converted a penalty corner in the 28th and former international Sameer Dad added to the tally in the 31st.

Air India continued their dominance in the second-half. Joga Singh made it 5-1 with a 37th minute goal while Affan scored his second goal of the match in the 43rd minute.

Haryana did well to regroup as Hansraj scored off a penalty stroke in the 53rd minute and Jitendra Saroha found the boards in the 60th minute off a penalty corner to reduce the margin to 6-3, but Arjun Halappa had the final word for the Air India by scoring in the 68th minute off a penalty stroke.

In the second semi-final, Punjab overcame a faltering start to down Karnataka who started promisingly with a seventh minute goal by MK Mudappa. Punjab hit back strongly as veteran Deepak Thakur struck twice in the 10th and 22nd on either side of a 17th minute goal by Gurjinder Singh.

Nikkin Thimmaiah pulled one back for Karnataka with a brilliant solo run in the 29th minute as the teams went into half-time with Punjab leading 3-2.

Punjab totally dominated the second half. In the 45th minute, Gurjinder Singh passed the ball to Saravanjit Singh to score and in the 58th, Vikramjit Singh scored from a penalty corner after receiving a pass from Thakur.

The results (semifinals):

Air India 7 (Affan Yusuf 5, 43; Vikram Pillay 15; Prabodh Tirkey 28 PC; Sameer Dad 31; Joga Singh 37; Arjun Halappa 68 Penalty Stroke) beat Haryana 3 (Mandeep Antil 10; Hansraj 53 Penalty Stroke; Jitendra Saroha 60 PC ).

Punjab 5 (Deepak Thakur 10, 22; Gurujindeer Singh 17; Sarvanjit Singh 45; Vikramjit Singh 58) beat Karnataka 2 (MK Mudappa 7; Nikkin Thimmaiah 29).

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