Trust U Mumba to do the unbelievable! They did a repeat of their narrow win over Puneri Paltan in the first leg of the Season 3 Star Sports Pro League today at the NSCI Dome at Mumbai. It was a perfectly scripted win by a 30-27 margin after trailing by two points with just about three minutes left. Their strategy was perfectly executed by the two stalwarts Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar but full credit to that man Rishank Devadiga who came up with a flash raid that sent Jasmer Singh Gulia packing off the court. Jasmer Singh Gulia for long had been tormenting U Mumba.
Rishank Devadiga removed that thorn and U Mumba equalised at 26=26 forcing Puneri Paltan on the defensive. Jasmer Singh Gulia had delayed the looming all-out with two super tackles that the three the side from above the Western Ghats inflicted on the day. Sachin Shingade first got Rishank Devadiga and then Jasmer Singh Gulia stung Anup Kumar and Rakesh Kumar just when the local supporters thought their team would capitalise. At half time the match was evenly poised at 12-12 with the lead changing hands all the time.
If the Puneri Paltan put up a good show through Ajay Thakur and Surendra Singh in the absence of Manjeet Chhillar their skipper, Mumbai responded through Captain Anup Kumar who had a three point super raid in the 18th minute to give his side a 12-11 advantage. Most of the success both the outfits enjoyed was a result of their raider’s efforts. There was hardly any good work from the defence on either side of the midline. Surjeet Narwal (Services) who failed to stop Rakesh Kumar and Anup Kumar once each then had the latter once in the 10th minute. For U Mumba only Vishal Mane managed a solitary defence point on Ajay Thakur.
The result gives U Mumba the opportunity to remain in contention for the top spot. With two matches in hand against Telugu Titans and Dabang Delhi K.C. they can hope to finish with 60 points, two more than Patna Pirates. Puneri Paltan came close but are a whisker away from qualifying. With 43 points they can hope for a draw or a consolation point against Bengal Warriors that can help them edge Telugu Titans who can finish with 43 points in case they beat U Mumba tomorrow.
The Maharashtra Derby as the meeting was branded started on a sedate note with barely eight points on board by the 10th minute with the visitors leading 5-3. The teams were tense with nobody venturing to attack. It was a cat and mouse game but the way U Mumba played and won shows the confidence they had in their abilities. They kept pace with their rivals who were obviously circumspect owing to Manjeet Chhillar’s absence. But Deepak Hooda did a good job of guiding the flock by calming their nerves.
Surendra Singh did what was expected of him as almost all the Puneri Paltan raiders kept away from Fazel Atrachali. The Iranian lion surprisingly went without a point today. After half-time Pune suffered as they were reduced to three or four on court and with Ajay Thakur off it for a long period they couldn’t attack when needed.
They tried Tushar Patil as a substitute for a do-or-die raid but that failed. A review by U Mumbai helped them to reverse the umpire’s decision. He had ruled Tushar Patil and Mohit Chhillar out. The latter had apparently stepped into the lobby. But before Tushar Patil slipped to the ground he had struck Jeeva Kumar on the face. After seeing the replays the third umpire ruled in favour of U Mumba. Mohit Chhillar had stepped into the lobbies but only after the struggle had started meaning after both Tushar Patil and Jeeva Kumar had clashed.
That crucial act from U Mumba Captain Anup Kumar helped his side not just save an important point but it helped them have Mohit Chhillar on court to effect a crucial hold on Deepak Hooda to snatch the lead at 27-26. With one man left on court for the losers, came the expected all-out and a well-deserved win for the hosts. They did their maths right and a part of the credit should go to the manipulative brain of coach E Bhaskaran.