Star forward Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh helped home side Sher-e-Punjab build a comfortable lead before they were forced to settle for a 3-3 draw with undefeated Pune Strykers in the World Series Hockey at the Surjit Hockey stadium on Sunday.
In another match in Mumbai, Chandigarh Comets made a startling comeback from 0-2 down within ten minutes to whip Mumbai Marines 5-2 and register their first victory in the tournament.
The Comets should have won by a bigger margin but for some superlative goalkeeping by the Marines captain and India discard Adiran D'Souza, who showed excellent reflexes in keeping out half a dozen goal-bound shots.
The feature of Comets' victory was that they won without the services of their captain and Pakistan ace Rehan Butt, who was injured early in the match and had to be taken to hospital for a scan.
The Comets, who came into the match after having lost their opening two matches, took time to settle down by which time the Marines were 2-0 up. But they stormed their way back into the game, equalising before half-time and then pumping in three more goals later to inflict the second defeat in three games on the home team.
Gurjinder Singh struck a brace of penalty-corner goals for the visiting team, their second and third efforts, after his colleague Sukhwinder Singh notched Comets' first goal. Sukhwinder later completed the tally by converting a penalty-stroke at the fag end.
The fourth goal for the Chandigarh side was scored by Ranjodh Singh, also a field effort like Sukhwinder's first goal.
Deepak Thakur shines
Thakur is still the cynosure of all eyes. The former India ace gave the finishing touches to an early onslaught of Shers, but young Bikas Toppo emulated the senior, coming up with a similar brace of goals late in game to save the day for the Pune side.
Thakur, who missed some easy opportunities in the beginning, recovered quickly to put Shers in an unassailable position with two sharp goals in the third minute of the first quarter and then two minutes before the second.
Prabhjot Singh, besides setting up Thakur, struck once in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
The story would have been different had a Toppo shot in the first minute of the second quarter found the target. The whiplash of a shot just missed the right post much to the chagrin of the Pune side.
The third quarter belonged to Pune. Mario Almada, who was sparingly used till then, came into his known and together with gangling youngster Vikas Pillay wove cobwebs around Sher's defence.
Sher's wall cracked and they started conceding penalty-corners.
Gurpreet converted first of the five penalty-corners Pune earned in the third quarter. His knee high drag flick hit a defender's stick and found the net (1-2).
But Prabhjot made it 3-1 as the Shers threatened to runaway with the match.
Toppo then started the Pune side's revival. He threw himself forward to deflect a strong free hit of Vikas Pillay to narrow the scorelinre to 2-3 in the 60th minute and then gave finishing touches to a brainy deflection of Almada to draw level (3-3) in the 65th minute.