Hyderabad Sultans put paid to the aspirations of Maratha Warriors edging them out 1-0 to enter the semifinals of the Premier Hockey League at the Sector 42 Hockey Stadium in Chandigarh on Wednesday.
Hyderabad scored in the first quarter and held on to their slender lead.
The credit should go to their young defenders Samir Baxla and Diwakar Ram, who thwarted the repeated raids of the Warriors. They were sure in their tackles and boxed their rivals, excelling with quick and clean clearances.
On the other side, their Dutch import Oscar ter Weeme was solid in the Hyderabad goal. He was instrumental in saving all the three short corners taken by Maratha Warriors.
Hyderabad Sultans took the lead in the 14th minute as they earned a free hit just outside the circle when the ball hit Warriors' Dhananjay Mahadik's leg. Sultans' skipper Sardar Singh put his brother Didar Singh in possession on the right of the circle and the wily sardar took a shot at the goal.
Warriors' custodian Adrian D'Souza blocked the ball but an alert Johnson Ekka slotted home from handshaking distance near the far post.
Thereafter, Maratha Warriors dominated the proceedings with more ball possession and had a better share of exchanges but found a Himalayan barrier in Samir Baxla and Diwakar Ram in the Hyderabad defence.
Both the junior India campers had a field day as they were full of energy denying space to the rival forwards Shivender Singh and Rehan Butt.
Rehan, the Pakistan player in the Warriors squad, played brilliantly in the first three matches but could not give his best as he was nursing an injury.
Warriors earned three short corners but did not have a penalty corner specialist. Their Dutch import Loijen Melchior tried his hand and sent three powerful flicks but all were saved by his Dutch counterpart Oscar ter Weeme in the rival goal.
Oscar was declared the man of the match. Warriors are out of the tournament finishing with seven points while Hyderabad Sultans have 11 points and are currently third on the table.