Defending champions Orissa Steelers found their wonted form and registered an exciting 4-2 win over Maratha Warriors to keep their hopes alive for a semi-final berth in the Premier Hockey League at the Sector 42 Hockey Stadium in Chandigarh on Saturday night.
Playing an attacking game right from the word 'go', the Steelers displayed exciting hockey in all the departments of the game.
Their Pakistan import Shakeel Abbasi was at his brilliant best and with Prabodh Tirkey, Sunil Ekka and Ignace Tirkey playing their hearts out, they dominated proceedings and called the shots till the end.
The Steelers went ahead in the seventh minute following an attack from the left flank.
Sunil Ekka sent a stinging cross into the circle and the ball deflected off a defender's stick before Ajitesh Rai managed to gain hold at the top of the circle and shot home.
The game lost a bit of pace in the second quarter and the action was confined to the midfield except a couple of dangerous moves by Shakeel Abbasi.
Though the pace picked up in the third quarter, the scoreline remained static.
Warriors' goalkeeper Adrian D'Souza made a brilliant save in the 25th minute off a shot by Abbasi after Damandeep initiated a raid.
Later, D'Souza foiled Abbasi in the 40th minute and Eliazer Lakra in the 44th.
Maratha Warriors' Shivender Singh was prominent in attack but failed to get any support from his midfield.
Pakistani Rehan Butt was not allowed enough space by the Steelers' defence and could not display the form he showed in earlier matches.
Steelers continued to make raids into the rival citadel and increased the lead in the 50th minute.
Sunil Ekka sent a zooming shot into the circle and Shakeel Abbasi stretched his stick to make a brilliant deflection into the goal (2-0).
However, Warriors earned the first of their three penalty corners and pulled one back in the 57th minute. Their Dutch import Looijem Melchior sent his low drag flick to the boards.
But Warriors plans of a comeback were thwarted immediately as Steelers struck back scoring two goals in the space of two minutes.
In the 58th, Shakeel Abbasi, put in by Ignace Tirkey, found the target to make it 3-1.
With the defence out of place and only goalkeeper to beat, Abbasi caught D'Souza on the wrong foot and tapped through his legs.
In the very next minute, they made it 4-1 with Ignace once again feeding the ball to Shakeel Abbasi. This time the Pakistani cut into the circle and dribbled ahead but with the custodian rushing out he gave a pass into the goalmouth and Damandeep Singh knocked into the open goal.
Warriors scored a consolation goal in the 62nd minute with Looijem scoring again with his waist-high drag flick from the second short corner.
After five matches, Steelers have eight points with a match to go while Maratha Warriors are on seven points after four matches. They have two more matches in hand.