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Sr National Hockey: Young Maharashtra take on formidable Punjab

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Pune, Dec 19 (IANS) Traditional heavyweights Hockey Punjab take on this event’s surprise package Hockey Maharashtra in an exciting clash in Monday’s final of the 11th Hockey India Senior Men National Championship at the Major Dhyanchand Hockey Stadium, Nehrunagar-Pimpri.

Hosts Hockey Maharashtra are bullish after exceeding their expectations in the event and the final promises to be an exciting face-off. The encounter scheduled under lights on Monday has a lot to look forward to apart from the fact that Maharashtra is on a never-before journey.

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Hockey Punjab will be figuring in their fifth semi-final appearance over the past 10 years, which includes being two-time champions and three-time runners-up. For the hosts, the spunk and determination showed only endorses their entitlement to be among the best.

For Punjab, the encounter will be all about putting their experience together and a winning routine owing to their experience. Maharashtra, unlike, Punjab will want to prove that they can match up against seasoned teams as well.

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On-pitch the battle to watch for will be between 2020 Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Rupinderpal Singh and Maharashtra goalkeeper and former India player Akash Chikte.

Armed with vast experience Rupinder with two strikes in the last-eight encounter against Hockey Chandigarh proved how he can be a game-changer. In a similar capacity are Akash’s attributes standing up and blocking the Tamil Nadu attempts and helping Maharashtra get past the quarter-finals.

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Punjab have gone about their job clinically. They have not scored as many goals as Maharashtra with Lovepreet Jainth (5 Goals) and Rupinder Pal Singh (4 Goals) being their main scorers.

Interestingly, Maharashtra’s penalty corner expert Pratap Shinde has scored more goals (10 goals off PCs) than Rupinder.

Maharashtra, however, have run themselves into a purple patch with skipper Taleb Shah still searching for his real touch. However, the last-gasp equaliser against Tamil Nadu by Taleb restored his scoring ability scoring their 12th goal.

Both Punjab and Maharashtra have not clashed before making the game an open bet.

In the other semi-final, Hockey Karnataka take on Uttar Pradesh Hockey in a South-North encounter of varied styles.

–IANS

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