It will be do-or-die for Sultans, Steelers, Marathas and Shers

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Chandigarh, Jan 1 (UNI) With two semi-finalists -- Chandigarh Dynamos and Bangalore Hi-Fliers -- already spotted, an interesting situation has developed today after Hyderabad Sultans snatched three points against a plucky Chennai Veerans in the IV Premier Hockey League being played at the Sector 42 Hockey Stadium here.

Four teams -- Hyderabad Sultans, defending champions Orissa Steelers, Maratha Warriors and Sher-e-Jalandhar -- are in close race to fill the remaining two semi-final positions. Steelers and Sultans have identical points tally of eight apiece. Maratha Warriors and runners-up Shers have secured seven and five points, respectively.

In the next two days, Hyderabad Sultans are pitted against Maratha Warriors on January 2 while Steelers will challenge Shers on January three. All four teams need desperate victory to move into the knockout stage.

Tomorrow, if Sultans score outright win against Marathas, their points tally will rose to 11and if Marathas emerge winners their points tally will be 10. In case the match is extended to 10-minute extra time silver goal or shootout, the winners will secure two points and losers one.

The spectators are keeping their fingers crossed till the last day of the first phase of the PHL. In case Shers obtain three points against Steelers on January 3, both of them will tied with eight points each. It will be the goal difference which will decide the qualifiers. At present, Steelers are in better position having plus three goal difference and Shers minus three goal difference. Shers will require to win by a handsome margin if they want to keep their hopes alive.

Coming to the match, after three disappointing displays, Chennai Veerans suddenly sprung into their best form in the last two matches they have played. However, they woke up from deep slumber too late.

Playing their best match yesterday they went down fighting to star-studded Chandigarh Dynamos by 3-4 in extra time and today they maintained their good form despite losing to Hyderabad Sultans by 3-5. Chennai Veerans suffered their fifth defeat in regulation period, they were not disgraced.

Out of race for semi-final berth, Chennai Veerans fought with all their might despite three goals down Hyderabad Sultans scored in the first 14 minutes. Bikas Toppo (5th), Diwakar Ram (7th, penalty corner) and Man of the Match and captain Sardar Singh (14th) contributed one goal each to virtually put Hyderabad Sultans in an unbeatable position and looked for a one-sided affairs.

However, Chennai Veerans were not disappointed. After wasting penalty corners int he 11th and 15th minutes, Chennai Veerans' penalty corner expert Raghunath converted the third and fourth penalty corners in the 16th and 22nd minutes to narrow the score to 2-3.

Four minutes after resumption, Diwakar Ram converted Sultans' second penalty corner in the 39th minute to give his side a 4-2 lead.

Sultans captain Sardar Singh who had recently played in the German League and has improved his game, scored his second field goal in the 44th minute for a 5-2 lead.

Veerans Dutch import Joost Van Den reduced the margin with a field goal in the 64th minute. Sultans captain Sardar Singh was declared Man of the Match.

Tomorrow fixture: Hyderabad Sultans vs Maratha Warriors.

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