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Sr National Hockey: Maharashtra take on formidable Punjab in semis

Pune, Dec 20, 2021- A face-off between experienced drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh and seasoned goalkeeper Akash Chikte will be the highlight when traditional heavyweights Hockey Punjab take on this event’s surprise package Hockey Maharashtra in an exciting semi-final in the 11th Hockey India Senior Men National Championship at the Major Dhyanchand Hockey Stadium, Nehrunagar-Pimpri, on Monday.

Hosts Hockey Maharashtra are bullish after exceeding all expectations to trhe reach the semi-finals and the match promises to be exciting. 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.

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

On-pitch the battle to watch for will be between 2020 Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Rupinderpal 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.

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.  (Agency)

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