Ahmedabad: Raider Vikash Khandola pounced with vigour, wrestled and wreaked havoc on the opponent’s defence courageously as he dominated the mat to guide Haryana Steelers to a second straight win, beating the Bengaluru Bulls 33-30 at the EKA arena by TransStadia on Sunday.
Khandola was aggressive right from the word go. Just when the Bulls looked confident with raiders Pawan Sehrawat and Rohit Kumar, Khandola removed the main man Sehrawat out of the equation during a do-or-die raid. He and the evergreen Dharmaraj Cheralathan got Steelers within reach of Bulls.
However, Rohit’s successful raid points kept the scoreboard ticking for the Bulls. Khandola and Naveen tried to snatch quick points and were able to outscore Bulls to close the gap. In response, Bengaluru played it smart and inflicted the game’s first All-Out on Steelers just before the half-time whistle.
Steelers desperately needed someone to take charge in the second half and it was Khandola who delivered with elan. He opened the scoring with a bonus point to level the scores. A two-point raid followed by an incredible tackle on Sehrawat off the mat surprised the Bulls.
Rest of the game was neck and neck, but Khandola sealed the deal for the Steelers with a two-point raid in the final minute.
“The win has come at the right time. Our defence did a commendable job of stopping raids. The planning was to tackle in the first 10-15 seconds. If you wait, someone will raid and snatch points. We were successful to an extent and the result is in front of us,” coach Rakesh Kumar told reporters after the match.
It was a slow start for the Steelers, who were trailing the in the early stages of the game, owing to a stuttering defence. “The defence was all over the place at the start. I just told the team to not lose patience even if we are trailing by 5-6 points. My team has been impatient in such situations. We had the tools to come back, so I wanted them not to spread panic,” the former national player added.
Khandola was the star of the show, bagging 11 raid points and one crucial defensive point. “The coach told me to use a slightly aggressive technique against Bengaluru’s defence. Similarly, the tackling had to be strong. I was waiting for the right time to pounce,” said the raider, who reached a personal milestone of 200 successful raids.
Meanwhile, Bulls coach Randhir Singh rued missed opportunities in the second half that allowed Steelers to put his side under pressure.
“The defence didn’t do much. Before half-time, we had control over the raids, but in the second half, we lost the control,” he said.
Gujarat Fortunegiants struggling
Despite the boisterous crowd support in Ahmedabad, Gujarat Fortunegiants were not able to register a single win in the home leg after slipping to their second loss at home and their fourth straight in the competition when they lost 30-24 to Telugu Titans.
Titans’ star raider Siddharth Desai, who looked off-colour previously, picked up seven raid points. The defence’s 16 tackle points and Vishal Bhardwaj’s High 5 paved the way for Titans’ first victory of the competition.
“We were quite unlucky this season, as the combinations were not working out well. But now, we’ve found the right balance to take on champion teams. Last time, I said that I’ll try playing with new players and yes, it worked out. We will look for the right combination,” explained Titans’ coach Gholamreza Mazandarani.
Bharadwaj had a superb night defensively as we claimed seven tackle points, along with Abozar Mohajermighani. “We have played matches under pressure all through the tournament and felt even this one would get the better of us, but we reacted at the right time,” he said.
Fortunegiants’ fortunes have taken a hit since winning their first three matches of the season. “The team has now lost four consecutive matches. During the start of the league, every team focuses on a great home leg. We see a psychological edge. Gujarat were feeling the pressure of playing in Ahmedabad,” Titans’ assistant coach Jagdish Kumble concluded.
Updated Date: Aug 12, 2019 11:18:30 IST