Sultans down Veerans 5-3 to stay in the hunt

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Chandigarh, Jan 1 (UNI) Former champions Hyderabad Sultans overpowered Chennai Veerans 5-3 to keep their semifinal chances alive in the fourth edition of the Premier Hockey League here today.

In a high-scoring match, Hyderabad Sultans took an early 3-0 lead but Chennai Veerans pulled back two goals through their drag-flick artiste Raghunath to keep themselves in the race. But Hyderabad were in an attacking mood and added two more goals to finish the match 5-3.

Chennai Veerans finished their engagements to take the wooden spoon but their performance in the last three matches, where they matched the best, showed that the one point they garnered does not actually portray their true potential.

Sultans surged ahead in the fifth minute with Bikas Toppo capping a fine move on the left flank where he darted into the circle, running parallel to the goalline, and sent a minus pass to Didar Singh near the spot. Didar took a weak shot but it was left to Bikas Toppo to tap the ball home from close quarters to hoist the lead.

Within two minutes, Hyderabad Sultans earned the first of their three short corners and the young drag-flick specialist from Uttar Pradesh, Diwakar Ram, made it 2-0 scoring a low-flick into the boards after Nitin set it up perfectly, off a Sardara injection.

Then Sardara Singh was in the thick of action once again for Hyderabad Sultans deflecting home their third goal off a stinging shot into the goalmouth, from the right corner by their Pakistani import Adnan Maqsood in the 14 th minute.

Chennai Veerans put up a determined fight and their forwards Adam Sinclair, Mahendra Singh and Sanawar Ali made repeated raids into the rival defence.

Veerans earned two quick short corners in the 15th and 16th minutes and off the second one they played a dummy before Raghunath effected the drag-flick. The ball rolled in, after hitting defender Johnson Ekka's stick on the goalline (3-1).

Six minutes later, Chennai Veerans earned the fourth of their five penalty corners and Raghunath was bang on target once again scoring to the right of the goalkeeper.

However, Hyderabad continued to play attacking game and took the sting out of the match and put paid to the hopes of Chennai with two goals in the space of five minutes. Diwakar Ram came good with the team's second short corner in the 39th minute sending his drag flick into the cage(4-2).

Five minutes later, Sardara too notched his second goal. He went on a solo run feinting past two defenders and cut into the circle from the right. Chennai custodian Sreejesh rushed at him to the edge of the circle and Sardara pulled the ball to his right with a swift body dodge. Sreejesh fell to the ground but with the ball rolling towards the backline Sardara dived and slapped the ball into the goal from a very acute angle (5-2).

Chennai pulled one back again in the 64th minute but was too little too late. Adam Sinclair entered the circle from the middle and with the rival goalie rushing out, he passed the ball to his right and their Dutch import Joost van Den scooped into the empty goal.

Sardara Singh was declared man of the match.

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