KOLLAM: How flatteringly did the script begin for underdogs Odisha, a team comprising mostly rookies from the sports hostels in Rourkela and Pamposh. In the second minute, Deepanshu Bhargav steered in a through ball from the left to trigger wild celebrations from his teammates as well as a section of the crowd whom they had enraptured after their comeback win over Haryana in the semifinals.
Thereafter, though, their narrative went from awry to nightmarish, as they scored just one more in the remainder of the game. But in return, they conceded as many as eight, including five in the first half. Their lead lasted just four minutes, as the experienced Services restored parity through a penalty corner. In the space of 10 minutes, they scored two more to literally end the contest.
The goal-margin would have been even more monstrous, but for their goalkeeper Mrinal Choubey, a former India U-19 player. He palmed off at least a dozen certain goals, as Services remorselessly went for the kill. In a way, it was unusual for Services, who are traditionally circumspect in their approach. “We had watched them (Odisha) in the semifinal and they played an open, attacking game. Sometimes, they were too attacking, making them vulnerable to quick counters. So we thought we should focus on counterattacking. If they had converted a few other chances, the game would have been closer,” reckoned Services skipper Ignace Tirkey, who is from Odisha.
As the former India half-back observed, Odisha were thwarted by goalie P T Rao, who managed some part of either his body or stick to every goal-bound attempt.
At the start of the second half, Odisha did enjoy a dominant spell, but in anticlimactic fashion Services scored their seventh and Odisha’s hopes of resurgence fizzled out. Later, they won four successive penalty corners, but none was converted. In their over-eagerness to attack, they left gaping holes in their defence and were made to pay for that.
The women’s final too saw similar counterattacking tactics deployed by Punjab, who prevailed 3-1. For most of the match, they sat back and blunted the thrusts of Haryana forwards. The latter dominated the midfield, but couldn’t make many meaningful intrusions into Punjab’s goalmouth.
Punjab, meanwhile, waited for their rival’s mistakes. Employing long balls, and blessed with pace, they made quick forays into Haryana’s half and won penalty corners at crucial times.
Results (finals): Men: Services bt Odisha 8-2. Women: Punjab by Haryana 3-1.