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Lions ride on Len's hat-trick
January 26, 2006 00:22 IST
Drag-flick specialist Len Aiyappa was the hero of the day scoring a hat-trick which fashioned Bangalore Lions' 3-2 victory over Maratha Warriors in the Premier Hockey League at the Sector 42 hockey Stadium in Chandigarh on Wednesday night.
Maratha Warriors began on an attacking note and played aggressively in the first quarter but despite having more ball possession they failed to penetrate to attack, they found a Himalayan barrier in Lions custodian Bharat Chetri, who made at least five good saves to thwart the rival challenge, Dhanraj Pillay, who started as a playmaker, was marked by Bipin Fernandez and only towards the end he started to break free from him.
Bangalore earned their first short-corner in the 15th minute but Len Aiyappa's flick went out tantalizingly close to the right post.
But the 26-year-old made amends and used his powerful flick to hoist the lead in the 17th minute after Arjun Halappa earned the team's second set-piece drill.
Seven minutes before the half-time, Lions forced their third short corner after a dangerous raid by Tushar Kandhekar on the left flank and Len Aiyappa was bang on the target with low drag-flick which hit defender Viren Rasquinha before settling in the net.
Warriors raised the game in the third quarter and made a desperate bid to reduce the margin with a series of thrusts upfront but with Arjun Halappa and Ignace Tirkey falling back to assist the defenders Len Aiyappa and Ajay Siroha, Bangalore managed to keep their citadel intact.
However, early in the third quarter, Warriors pulled one back with a smart deflection. In the 54th minute, Dhananjay Mahadik took a free hit from outside the 25-yard line on the left and the ball was deflected from the top of the circle to Dhanraj Pillay near the post. And the veteran warhorse made a smart connection to make it 2-1. Lions protested but the third umpire upheld the decision of umpire Satinder Sharma.
Buoyed by the goal, Warriors lifted the game but through a surprise saw a Rehan Butt shot hit the post, but Lions forced their fourth and last penalty corner in the 62nd minute. And Len Aiyappa made no mistake beating rival custodian Adrian D'Souza once again with his powerful drag-flick to complete the hat-trick.
Undaunted, Warriors continued to exert pressure and scored another goal but ran out of time to get the equaliser.
In the 69th minute, skipper Viren Rasquinha lost possession at the top of the circle but recovered and dived to retrieve the ball and gave it to Adnan Zakir, whose hit rose after touching defender Len Aiyappa's stick. The umpire allowed advantage instead of blowing for a short corner and Shivender tapped a shoulder high ball into the goal to make it 3-2 seconds before the hooter.