Orissa Steelers survived a scare before winning their match against Imphal Rangers by a golden goal in a Tier II match of the Premier Hockey League in Chandigarh on Friday.
Orissa earned two points from the victory and lead the table with 12 points after five games while Imphal Rangers garnered one point from the match to increase their tally to four points after four matches.
Rangers, who usually play with three forwards, switched to an attacking 4-4-2 formation for this game and surprised the leaders with an early goal in the second minute.
Seasoned campaigner Brojen Singh was prominent in the attack with his darting runs. He forced a penalty-corner in the second minute after his raid on the left flank. Jayanta Singh sent in a powerful drag-flick to beat Orissa goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh and earn the lead for Rangers.
Rangers took control of the midfield where Tennyson, Herojit Singh and Laiba Singh combined well to play a compact game and they had better share of exchanges till the breather.
Forwards Sunil Ekka and Birender Lakra worked hard upfront for Orissa, but they were not effective on the day and Sunil missed a couple of gilt-edged chances.
Imphal defenders Thomba Singh and Jayanta Singh were good in anticipation and tackling and gave a tough time to Orissas strikers.
In the 19th minute, Rangers' goal survived a close call when Bruno Hadrian sent a stinging hit. But custodian Somesh Kanata made a brilliant save and Thomba was alert to clear the rebound to safety.
In the 33rd minute, Orissa Steelers earned two consecutive penalty-corners and forced a penalty stroke through the second one to draw abreast.
A goal-bound Jayanta's flick hit a defender's foot and umpire A S Negi had no hesitation in pointing to the dreaded spot. Inder Singh Salaria foxed the goalkeeper to the wrong side, and sent the ball to the corner of the net.
In the third quarter, Rangers continued their aggressive game but failed to capitalise on four successive penalty-corners they earned in the last two minutes of the session.
Orissa goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh and their first runner Chandrashekar Xalxo made good saves to keep honours even.
Later, Orissa stepped up gears and increased the tempo but their repeated raids on the rival citadel failed to yield any result as Rangers guarded their defence well to push the match into extra-time and earned a valuable point, which in the final analysis might save them from relegation.
They were aided by a yellow card to Anand Tirkey, which reduced Orissa to 10 players. In this period, Orissa's Sunil Ekka missed the post by inches and a sharp angled shot by Roshan Minj missed the target narrowly.
Rangers' two penalty-corners and Orissa's one, in the first half of the extra-time for silver goal proved futile.
The teams changed ends and midway through the second half for the golden goal, Orissa forced another penalty-corner which yielded a penalty stroke and Inder Singh Salaria made no mistake from the spot to earn two important points for the team which kept them on the top of the table.