Pune Strykers, the king of comebacks in this inaugural edition of World Series Hockey, found themselves in a familiar situation at the half time. They were trailing Sher-e-Punjab 1-2 and everyone in the stadium wondered whether they will be able to come from behind yet again. Unfortunately for them, it was not to be the case.
Punjab beat a tired-looking Pune outfit 5-2 to be crowned as the champions of the inaugural edition of WSH at the MHA Mahindra Stadium here on Monday. Coached by Rajinder Singh, Punjab proved to be too strong for the young Pune team that surprised all with their performance this season.
Quite to the thrill of the crowd, Pune took the lead through a wonder goal by youngster Tyron Pereira in the fourth minute. Their Argentine import Mario Almada initiated a move from the middle of the pitch and passed it towards Pereira, who was unmarked on the right inside the D. Pereira tried to make a square pass but the ball hit the outside of his stick and flew past Punjab goalkeeper Sukhjit Singh. Even Pereira looked stunned for a moment before breaking into celebration.
But Pune could not manage to hold on to their lead for long. Barely a couple of minutes later, Punjab earned a penalty corner and VS Vinaya slotted home the equaliser. Punjab continued to press, Deepak Thakur and Prabhjot Singh —the two India discards — keeping the Pune defenders busy. Their efforts bore fruits as Thakur, latching on to a pass by Australian Matthew Hotchkins, unleashed an unstoppable reverse-hit to give Punjab the lead in the 32nd minute.
So Pune had their task cut out once again. Did they have it in them to pull off yet another miracle?
Punjab began the second half cautiously, knowing very well that their opponents would make the most of their slip-ups. After a few feeble attempts on goal, Prabhjot scored in the 47th minute to give Punjab a two-goal cushion going into the final quarter.