A strong midfield enabled Bangalore Lions chalked out a convincing 3-1 victory over Maratha Warriors in the Premier Hockey League at the Sector 42 stadium in Chandigarh on Thursday.
The Lions' attack, comprising Sandeep Michael, Tushar Khandekar and Rehan Butt, combined well to exploit a disorganized defence of Maratha Warriors.
Bimal Lakra played a brilliant game, controlling the Lions' midfield. He was the fulcrum, feeding good passes to their forwards along with Sabu Varkey, towards the later part of the game.
The Warriors tended to attack from the right but Prabodh Tirkey was outstanding in defence, shutting off the attacks from the right to neutralize the sting of the Warriors` frontline.
Rehan was instrumental in sending dangerous crosses and Michael, who attacked with vigour, displayed good prowess in retackling as well. He also scored a gem of a goal with a solo run and deservedly won the 'Lion of the match' award.
Warriors failed to exploit the weak right flank of Lions, where skipper Arjun Halappa was off colour. Warriors' strikers Shivender, Vijay Alphonso and Adnan Zakir later on, were starved of good passes as Viren Rasquinha and Dhanraj Pillay were not allowed enough space to function to their liking.
The Lions took control of the match and had better ball possession in the first quarter but it was Maratha Warriors who had a better share of exchanges in the second. In the 25 th minute after exerting consistent pressure, Warriors missed a golden chance to take the lead when a Shivender cross into the circle found an unmarked Pillay at the top of the circle. Dhanraj dodged and sidestepped the onrushing goalie, Bharat Chetri, and with an open goal staring at him, he delayed a wee bit and Chetri recovered and dived back to make a stunning save.
Immediately, Lions made a quick counter attack on the right and hoisted the lead in the 26th minute. Michael went on a solo, exhibiting his magic dribbling skills, and took a defender in his stride with a deceptive body feint, and got back the ball and took a cracking shot at the goal that beat Warriors` custodian Adrian D'Souza hands down. (1-0)
However, Warriors drew level in the next minute, earning the first of their five penalty-corners and Imran Warsi effected a powerful drag flick that brooked no answer from the rival goalie Bharat Chetri, who was blinded by a defender who jumped in front of him. (1-1). In the last five minutes before the half time, Warriors continued to attack and Lions conceded three penalty-corners, but Warriors failed to make use of any of them. While Chetri made two good saves, with Prabodh clearing the rebounds, first runner Tushar Khandekar blocked the third with his fast sprint-out.
In the third quarter, Lions moved Len Aiyappa out of the defence and Quintana, who braved a head injury and played with a bandage, took control of the defence along with Ajay Siroha. With veteran Vareky reinforcing the midfield, Lions had quality ball possession and called the shots.
They earned their only penalty-corner in the 54th minute and with Rehan Butt sending a fast push, Bimal Lakra set it up perfectly for Len Aiyappa. And the top-scorer in the first PHL disguised the direction and sent a zooming flick to the boards to the left of goalie Adrian D`Souza. (2-1)
Buoyed by the goal, Lions switched up gears and attacked in numbers and got a bonus goal in the 63 rd minute because of costly defensive lapse.
Warriors` deep defender William Xalco made a bad trap from a pass from Rasquinha and lost the ball to Khandekar, who just stepped ahead, turned and sent a stinging reverse hit into the boards to make it 3-1.
After four matches, Bangalore Lions have seven points while Warriors remain on six.