MUMBAI: The fairytale run of Tamil Thalaivas in the Pro Kabaddi League Season 9 ended in a cruel way in the second semi-final here on Thursday as Puneri Paltan recorded a nail-biting 39-37 victory to enter its maiden final.
Puneri was behind the eight ball during the change of ends, trailing by six points (15-21), but its ‘Seven Wonders’ turned things around in the second half – with the help of two ‘All Outs’ – to book its berth in the title decider, where it will face Jaipur Pink Panthers. Being the sole representative from Maharashtra in the play-offs, Paltan used the ‘home’ advantage at the Dome, NSCI SVP Stadium, to good effect for its turnaround.
Puneri was without its leading raiders Aslam Inamdar and Mohit Goyat – both out with injuries – but Pankaj Mohite (16 points – 14 raid points and 2 tackle points) ensured their absence was never felt on the mat with a breathtaking performance. Thalaivas’ young gun Narender (12 points – 11 raid points and 1 tackle point) made an impression yet again, but it was a shame that he ended up on the losing side.
After TT took the early initiative, PP pulled things back with two ‘Super Tackles’ to level the score at 9-9. But, Thalaivas surged ahead after a blip and effected the first ‘All Out’ in the 13th minute to secure a decent cushion at 15-9. Although Puneri struck blows regularly, the southern team maintained the six-point lead (21-15) at the half-time break.
But, Paltan roared back into the match with its first ‘All Out’ in the 27th minute, when it was behind by just a solitary point (23-24). Both teams exchanged points for the next 10 minutes before Puneri bagged the all-important ‘All Out’ in the 37th minute. With the scorecard reading 36-31 in favour of PP, the Fazel Atrachali-led team had one foot in the final.
Paltan showed excellent game management skills in the final three minutes to walk out as winner. While Puneri all-rounder Mohammad Nabibakhsk came up with a cartwheel celebration, Thalaivas players and coaches wore a dejected look.
“It is not compulsory to win a medal. I am extremely happy that we fought so hard. As a coach, I am a bit sad that our strategy did not work [in the semi-final match]. We are happy with where we managed to reach,” said Thalaivas head coach Ashan Kumar.
Pink Panthers into its fourth final
Pink Panthers lived up to its billing as league stage table-topper as it raced into its fourth Pro Kabaddi final by bullying Bengaluru Bulls 49-29.
In the first semi-final, inaugural champion Jaipur sent Bengaluru packing, thanks to its sheer dominance from the very first minute. On a night when its defenders hardly put a foot wrong, Pink Panthers inflicted three ‘All Outs’ – one in the first half (14th minute) and two (23rd and 29th) in the second period.
Right corner Sahul Kumar (10 tackle points) hogged the limelight with what can be described as a ‘High 10’ while Ankush (5 tackle points) and Reza Mirbagheri (5 tackle points) also impressed. Lead raider Arjun Deshwal (4 raid points) had a rare off night, but V Ajith Kumar (13 raid points) stepped up with a ‘Super 10’.
With Bulls looking like a completely different unit to the one that crushed Dabang Delhi in the first Eliminator just a couple of days ago, Pink Panthers ran riot and led 24-15 at half-time. Jaipur stayed miles ahead in the second half and wrapped up the contest in style.
RESULTS: Semi-finals: Puneri Paltan 39 bt Tamil Thalaivas 37; Jaipur Pink Panthers 49 bt Bengaluru Bulls 29
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