Punjab, in keeping with its reputation, produced a dominant performance to put it across Odisha 6-2 in the final of the Hockey India-fourth junior National men’s championship at the Mayor Radhakrishnan Stadium here on Sunday.
The crowd cheered nearly every attacking move by Odisha, the underdog, but there was no stopping Punjab from clinching a hat-trick of titles.
After Punjab scored in the very first minute through a penalty corner conversion by Harjeet Singh, Haryana got a chance to equalise.
However, Dipsan Tirkey missed a penalty stroke with goalkeeper Jugraj Singh judging the striker’s shot correctly.
Punjab consolidated its lead, thanks to some fine work on the left by Harmanpreet Singh, who dribbled the ball from the half-line and relayed it to Baljeet Singh. The latter promptly passed it to Simranjeet Singh, who scooped it home.
With five minutes remaining for the first session, Sunil Ekka reduced the margin when he drilled home past Punjab custodian Jugraj.
With right-half Jarmanpreet Singh working well on the flanks, the forwards had enough scoring opportunities and the Odisha defence was kept busy in the second half too.
Baljinder Singh was quick to latch on to a rebound off the goalkeeper’s pads to make it 3-1. Possessing a clutch of young and enterprising players, Odisha put up a brave fight till the early part of the second session when Joseph Toppo’s excellent deflection off a long pass found the target.
Encouraged by the goal, Odisha attacked with vigour and came close to scoring on quite a few occasions. However, once Parvinder Singh deflected home off a cross from Simranjeet, Odisha started to lose steam. Punjab continued to score, with Ajit Pandit and Simranjeet (his second) completing the tally.
'We knew they were good in midfield and attack. Once we stopped the supply, they panicked,' said Avtar Singh, Punjab’s coach.
Final: Punjab 6 (Harjeet Singh, Simranjeet Singh 2, Baljinder Singh, Parvinder Singh, Ajit Pandit) bt Odisha 2 (Sunil Ekka, Joseph Toppo).
Third place play-off match: Haryana 7 (Mandeep Mor 3, Sahil Dabas, Santa Singh, Inderpal Singh, Manpreet) bt SAI 3 (Aji Ku Pandey, Navdeep Singh, Pawan Rajbhar).